cone magazine

Duane Hanson Working Class America

Duane Hanson Serpentine Gallery

The extremely accurate, life like sculptures are put on display at the Serpentine Gallery, London.

If, like me, you’ve been kinda bored lately with exhibitions and galleries not really grabbing you and blowing you away. Bored of another print or painting nicely hung up on a white wall surrounded by onlookers just as unsatisfied as you are, taking a trip to the Serpentine Gallery this summer will restore your faith!

The gallery situated in Hyde Park is currently hosting the works of American artist Duane Hanson, a sculptor in the mid 1960’s who spent his 40 year long career creating life like figures based on working class Americans. Stumbling upon the show by accident one day after strolling through the park it completely stunned and excited me (kinda sad i know). The incredible amount of detail and finish to each figure was enough to put me on edge and create a high sense of uneasy-ness throughout my time there. Each time i got close to one of the works of art to inspect its detailing, from a crooked yellowing tooth down to the raised veins on the hand, i couldn’t relax. The figures were so finely detailed that often i mistook another tourist or member of gallery staff for a work of art convincing myself that at least one of them had to be a real person and it was a sick joke being played on unsuspecting art lovers.

Made up of fibre-glass and plaster the life like sculptures also carry with them a prominent theme successfully portrayed through the clothes they wear and the settings they’re placed in. As you enter the gallery you are greeted by an elderly woman sitting down at her ‘yard sale’ selling books and old framed paintings, the collection also includes a group of workmen placed on scaffolding, a middle aged African woman with her cleaning gear and bin trolley, a homeless man complete with cardboard sign and other controversial and hard hitting pieces. Duane uses his gift to show working class America at the time and the stereotypes that come with each individual. Duane’s real talent comes from his ability to transform the mundane and overlooked ordinary into works of art capable of creating unordinary emotion.

“Duane Hanson’s iconic sculptures of ordinary people will literally stop visitors in their tracks this summer. Beyond the stunning realism, the power of Hanson’s work lies in his unwavering focus on and sympathy for the human condition.”

Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, Serpentine Galleries

With this being the first show dedicated to Duane in London since 1997 its put up there as a definite must this summer!



Features are free for all CONE Mag subscribers.
Sign up below