Artforum.com, January 2006
By Nick Stillman
"Can they do this?" Those words were on many lips as word spread about David Hammons' "unauthorized" retrospective at this non-profit in Harlem, the artist's longtime home base. Apparently they can. Hammons allegedly eschewed an offer to exhibit in the space so th gallery simply lined their ample walls with photocopies and Internet printouts of this hermetic and revered artist's work. The wall text, which labels Hammons as an "art world trickster," is sure to create controversy, both because it implicitly needles the artist for refusing to show work in a grassroots venue on his own turf and because categorizing him seems nearly criminal. Bliz-aard Ball Sale, 1983, a famous performance in which he sold snowblls on a sidewalk to pedestrians, may superficially seem the work of a joker. But is it not also a brilliantly damning critique of the consumerist dilemma, in which one buys a product and, after its novelty has melted away, must buy more to fulfill the spiritual void? Relentlessly attacking New York City's rampant homelessness and grotesque imbalance of wealth in his work, Hammons' heart is clearly of the city's sidewalks and alleys -- not its galleries -- and this exhibition aptly duplicates the spirit of an artist who never refained from extending a middle finger toward the art establishment.