Today we look back through Dawoud Bey’s archive to a series of rarely seen photographs he made, documenting the work and actions of iconoclastic artist David Hammons. #IntheArchive
The two artists met through their mutual association with Linda Goode Bryant, whose groundbreaking gallery Just Above Midtown (JAM) was dedicated exclusively to black artists. Dawoud Bey documented Hammon’s work—part performance, part institutional critique—at a time when the art world was not paying attention. In David Hammons, Bliz-aard Ball Sale II, Bey captures a moment in February 1983, when Hammons stood on the street alongside other vendors on Cooper Square, selling snowballs in different sizes (from XS to XL) to passersby. By placing value on and appearing to profit from the sale of useless and ephemeral objects, Hammons drew attention to both the arbitrary nature of the art market and the precarious financial conditions of many working-class New Yorkers.
“Periodically in the 1980s I would get a phone call from David—usually late at night—letting me know that he was going to “do something” the next day and that I should come...and be sure to bring my camera. Part of what I believe gives Blizz-aard Ball Sale its enduring power was that it was an act that existed completely outside the art world, and yet, it was an act of creative brilliance that suggested that everyday people were as valued an audience as the presumably more educated art world audience. David loved being and working in the non-judgmental space of the public streets, where the work was allowed to be seen and experienced on its own unmediated terms. No one—not even friends—were alerted; the only artist friends present were those of us who had stored these perfectly round snowballs in our freezers, and the few who happened by because they lived in the neighborhood. Over the years this action or performance became legendary, mythic almost, as the story continued to spread, even with no images to sustain it. After almost four decades I felt that for the sake of history and posterity, this work needed to finally exist as a photographic object and not be merely relegated to memory.” - @dawoudbey
Dawoud Bey, David Hammons, Bliz-aard Ball Sale II, 1983/2019, archival pigment print, diptych, each 23 x 33 inches, edition of 6 with 2 APs