HAMMONS’ HEFTY BAG
Forty years ago, there lived in a street level apartment on East 6th Street a tall chestnut-haired woman by the name of Paula, who replaced the door of her sidewalk abode with a garbage bag as an invitation to any and all men to stop in for a tumble with her.
A couple of my friends took Paula up on her generous invitation and, a few mornings later, sat around our breakfast table staging crab races with the little white runners they had picked out of their pubes. Thoughts of Paula arrived again the other day as I approached L&M Arts’ ground floor townhouse on the Upper East Side. Raves from Jerry Saltz and Peter Schjeldahl alerted me that David Hammons had done something wonderful with garbage bags.
Thinking of Paula, I expected to find that Hammons had ripped off the door of L&M and replaced it with a trash bag. No such luck, for, as usual, L&M’s door was locked. I rang the bell, someone espied me through a security camera and then buzzed me in. Let me observe, at the outset, David Hammons or no David Hammons, that there is something delicious about seeing a security guard protecting garbage bags hanging on the walls of a mansion, and, initially, one cannot help but concede that Hammons has draped his bags masterfully over a bunch of crappy abstract paintings.
The only off note is a white sliver of plastic hanging across the back gallery entrance, but otherwise, Hammons’ signature gesture of "art povera" formalism monetized reigns supreme. Indeed, his cynical rope trick, that the very bag that a poor person might use as shoes or to replace a window pane might (will!) sell to the stupid wealthy for $500,000, seems as "powerful" as ever.
The problem, David, honey, is that you are now part of the problem. When the crowds of jobless youth move from Egypt to Madison Avenue, they are going to be coming for you, too. And no twee little tip of the hat to class irony will save you.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).