"In the Hood" by David Hammons
Art works have for a long time been used to depict social activities and experiences that people came accoss. In other instances, they depicted social equality, inequality and injustices that characterized society. In the Hood by David Hammons is one of the art works that could be interpreted to show inequality, characterizing different life experiences. There are unique experiences that Hammons had witnessed and he wanted to show them in the form of art.
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For instance, the way the blacks were treated in the white owned farms and homesteads showed discrimination in terms of skin color and race. It also dedpicted the inhuman experiences that could befall an individual who grows up in a different setting with unique ethnic group. In such an environment, individual identity is lost and one suffers in the hands of foreigners, where he/she does not have a voice. Such experiences could be well demonstrated with art. Therefore, this essay focuses on an analysis of David Hammon’s work In the Hood.
David Hammons was born in 1943 in Springfield, Illinois. He was a tenth child to a single parent (mother), who took good care of him during his young years. Life was not easy in his family because of the many children, and a single mother had to take care of them all, “when he was only 19 years old, he went to Los Angeles and started going to Chouinard Art Institute for two years between 1966 and 1968.” He later moved to Otis Art Institute to study arts between 1968 and 1972. “As an African American, life was not rousy at the institutions because they were dorminated by whites.” At Otis Art Institute, he got a lot of influence from dominant white artists who were famous globally, “including Chris Burden, John Baldessari and Bruce Nauman.” These artists created a lot of art works that changed people’s views about art, especially the African Americans who studied in such institutes. In addition, the education that David Hammons received at two art institutes improved his knowledge and creativity in designing informative pieces of art. He became famous in his artistic career because of the breath taking art pieces that he was able to craft.
Upon learning from the skills of these white artists, he organized fellow African Americans to pioneer this field of art. This group of African American artists also engaged in jazz music in various places within and around Los Angeles. He noticed that he could not revolutionize the art industry and create a positive change of mind by himself in the way the African Americans were being viewed. To a lage extent, there was a remarkable change that the group exerted in that society. For instance, it limited the discriminatory practices that the whites were practicing against the African Americans. In this regard, the whites started regarding the blacks as human beings, thus could not subject them to harsh conditions. The artworks clearly demonstrated this aspect, and the art revolution helped the African Americans significantly. “As the group’s influence increased outside Los Angeles, his dominance in art advanced and by 1974, moved to New York and settled there.” In this new environment, he advanced his artistic work, thereby increasing his experience.
Why He did the Art
It is true that his artistic work was a result of the life experiences he faced as an African American, while staying in Springfield, Illinois and Los Angeles. Needless to say that he also did art because of the gross influence that the white artists instilled or exerted in him. After going through all the discriminatory practices as an African Americn, his artwork reflected black movements, such as Black Power and civil rights. In the artwork In the Hood, for instance, he represented a hunting gear made of a generic hoodie in dark green color. “This piece of art work was hunged on the wall, and had wire props to make it resemble some kind of item that covers a visible head, even though there is no visible head.”
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In the same context, he did this art to demonstrate stereotype, appropriateness and create a sense of undermining other objects. This was the typical scenario of his relationship with the whites who saw him as nothing, but a cultural and racial baggage. Even though this could not be sensed in advance, a deep look at it and analysis of the same demonstrated the kind of “relationships that the African Americans had with their white colleagues.” Life was not easy for the African Americans because they were perceived differently and were expected to do odd things. This was a mere stereotype, but it created a lot of problems for the blacks because “their civic rights were always violated as they did not have voice during their relationships with the whites.”
In terms of content, the art work contained several items and was made in a shape that depicted what the artist intended to portray. For example, it contained a disemhoodied hood that depicts a traditional hunting hood that most Africans wore during hunting and harding. The hoodie was in dark green in color that represented the skin color of the African Americans and the environment under which it was used - in forsts or bushes. The artwork was hanged on the wall to show that this was the most appropriate storage position after a long work day, and a position that increased its visibility to potential visitors. This positioning resembles that of a trophy to attract the attention of any person who visits the place. The hood also had a rim with wire props around it. This depicted the fact that it was meant for small or large shaped invisible head, as it could be easily adjusted to fit the context. The content was merely a racial outfit that showed inter-cultural artefacts used in various cases. It was intended to send a clear message to the whites about how the African Americans were feeling they were being treated and the need to change an attitude about them. Even though the message was complex to understand, a keen look at it showed the artist’s intention.
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The art was very significant in outlining the kind of relationship that existed between blacks and whites who stayed in the United States. It signifies the injustices that many African Americans underwent in their relationship with the whites, but was depicted in a manner that “created humor and anxiety to learn more about the item, even in contemporary art.” Indeed, it also created a sense of inquiry from the potential viewers who could be interested in knowing more about the issues it depicted. This is significant because the art work could enhance creativity of individuals, as they would seek to know more about the item. In addition, “the art work is significance as it enhances knowledge base of the potential viewers as they would try to understand and justify the rationale behind the piece of art.” His art work drew a lot of stereotypical issues on African Americans to make and justify a statement that Hammons wanted to make.
David Hammons’ art In the Hood did not bypass confrontation from the whites and African Americans. For instance, the whites felt threatened by the pictorial and other artistical demonstrations of the artwork, thus confronting the artist to show the meaning of his art. In some cases, they wanted the artwork In the Hood, to not be displayed in places that could attract masses because of potential impacts that this had on mindset. Even though, there was no physical confrontation from the whites, it was largely psychological because the whites were disturbed about the implication of art movement that was looming.
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The artwork In the Hood has clearly elicieted reactions from the African Americans, and “it spurred civic rights movements in which different groups of Africans living in America started fighting for freedom from oppression.” In their view, the whites did not regard them as important beings, thus mistreating them. This has elicited couter reactions to demand for equality, which was at that time hard to come by due to racial segregation and composition in America. “The confrontation was largely by word of mouth and not physical, this demonstrated the need for people to have cordial relationships despite racial ffiliations.”
It is apparent that each profession may have a challenge or sets of challenges that professionals in the field face in the course of doing the work. Even though the artwork was meant to drive a point home, it did face different challenges that compromised its effectiveness in achieving the objectives it was meant to accomplish. Some of the challenges are as outlined below:
Intepretional challenge: There was a significant challenge in interpretation of the art work because it was based on personal views, disgrace and unsertanding about the issues expressed. Indeed, “a piece of work can elicit different interpretations because of diverse pictorial dimensions that a person would have upon seeing the art.” “In the Wood” for instance, the disemhoodied hood itself is not easy to understand, as there could be tens of interpretations based on what a person is able to see. Such differences in interpretation could be wrong or right, yet it is only the artist who designed it that has a clear interpretation of the issues he wanted to portray. Hammons could actually describe each aspect of the disemhoodied hood and the wire props that he used.
The need for change: This is a big challenge in art work because artists depict issues relating to change. Depicting an aspect of change is complicated and volatile because of unpreceddnted reaction from the potential viewers and those affected; for instance, the artwork In the Hood could lead to uprising as “the affected people may start making deamands that are difficult to ralize.” Creating an artwork that describes any aspect of change needs an adequate courion to ensure that the outcome does not affect the audience negatively.
Knowledge requirement: In order to make an artwork that creates a positive change of mindset in society, such as In the Hood, the artist must be educated, creative and knowledgeable. David Hammons was an educated and exposed person, having gone to two art institutons and interacted with white artists, thus he had “extensive knowledge about expressing innate ideas using art work” .
In summary, both ancient and contemporary artworks have done a lot in creating awareness of the environment and enhancing creativity. Artwork also depicts experiences, both in the past, currently and other possible future occurrences within given environmental setting. Other than the experiences, pieces of art work determine inequlities and equalities within the social setting in totality. Artwork could possibly eliminate social inequality or discrimination, whether on the basis of race or color by depicting the negative consequences of such practices in society. Finally, art helps one to develop social identity in the community, thus one could easily differentiate between one phenomenon aspect and another. This calls for persistence in the development of art to change lives.