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  #1  
Old 01-29-2007, 04:46 AM
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Sculptures of the American Dream

Interesting and well written commentary on this artist's figurative sculptures and how they relate to the American Dream. I suppose this would be the American dream in the life-time of the artist [1925 - 1996].

Is the American dream now more or less the same?

DUANE HANSON – Sculptures of the American Dream



2007-01-27 until 2007-06-04, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Ishoj, DK Denmark

Now a body of them are invading Denmark: The bodybuilder and the CEO, the pensioner, the derelict and the family dog – American artist Duane Hanson’s exceptionally lifelike figures. See them for yourself when they settle in ARKEN’s Art Axis in the spring 2007 exhibition DUANE HANSON – Sculptures of the American Dream.

The verisimilitude is astounding, as they sit there on the bench in the gallery. It is virtually impossible to see that the elderly couple with the glazed expression are not just another two exhausted museum visitors taking a well-earned rest amid the flurry of impressions.

However, the life-sized sculptures are actually cast in bronze by the American sculptor Duane Hanson (1925-1996). Better than anyone in his generation he was able to portray the consequences of post-war consumer culture and lifestyle for the American middleclass, with equal parts tenderness, humour and barbed criticism.

Ordinary heroes and life’s losers, Duane Hanson confronts us with the typical prejudices about Americans – they are naďve, superficial, heavy consumers… Yet he does so with a humanity that makes it impossible for us to reject them.

His figures are the spitting images of real people we know from our own lives. Types we meet in the office, at the gym, in the supermarket, and wherever else everyday life takes us. They are utterly ordinary and by no means conspicuous. They are just there. And yet they possess a certain quality. A quite unique mix of melancholy and a sense of ludicrousness, which manifests itself in the combination of their downcast eyes, worn clothes and heavy bearing, making them appear both universally human and typically American. ....
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Last edited by Merlion : 01-29-2007 at 05:59 AM.
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Old 01-29-2007, 12:13 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

It is easy to be cynical and make everything conform to your world view. The people that I hang out with and interact with do not resemble the characters that Duane has invented. I have seen those types as well, but I would not connect them with the American dream. I think Norman Rockwell did a much better job of that, as he operated from a loving heart.

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Old 01-29-2007, 07:07 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

I think I've only seen one in person, which is owned by one of New Orleans' most prominent collectors. For years it was mountedd just outside an elevator where casual visitors could reach art on upper floors, and invariably people stood back a bit to give preference for this little old woman. Very lifelike! I'll have to admit I have a favorable view, though almost entirely from remote imagery.
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Old 01-30-2007, 08:36 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Glenn, people are different and have their own world view, or in this case their own view of the post-war American middle-class personalities they would like to present. One may agree or disagree with it, or may not care.

The point is that Hanson seems to be able to present it skillfully and perceptively with "tenderness, humour and barbed criticism" through his life-like life-size figurative sculptures. I have not seen his sculptures in person, nor even better pictures. If what the commentator says is true, this is a high level of ability, and is something that not many artists can achieve.
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Last edited by Merlion : 01-30-2007 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 01-31-2007, 11:48 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Merlion: I was just responding to the question in your orginal post, "Is the American dream now more or less the same?" Thus I addressed the content and message of the art, not the technique, which is obviously well done.

As I percieve the American dream, it is the idea that anyone can come here and persevere with initiative and effort to make a success of their life. The definition of success varies between individuals, but the point being that this is a land of Freedom and opportunity. There thousands success stories involving all types of people who found that the major obstacles were their own sense of limitation, and who found ways to accomplish great things here.

I did not see that reflected in the artwork, thus my comment.

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Old 01-31-2007, 04:26 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Nice work , but all and all we can't deny reports like this one...http://health.msn.com/reports/obesity/.. My parents were in Berlin whenthe Marshall plan went in to effect. They had many stories of how Americans were percieved by Europeans as they were also in Holland and France . It was hard not to live the life with what they were accustomed to. My mother had maids over seas and it was common for those people to pick up her cast off potato peelings and clean up the butts from my fathers smokes...all for there own consumption. We are fortunate, complacent and spoiled . We were the victors of the war. We still are fortunate but the economy is a changin'...lifes a beach.......reality is a bitch.
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Old 01-31-2007, 06:10 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Come to think of it. Perhaps the best sculptor of what is called the American Dream is a Frenchman. His name is Bartholdi.
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Old 01-31-2007, 07:27 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

The ironic title of this exhibit is only representing SOME of Hansen's work. He depicted a wide range of americana including bodybuilders, beach bunnies, schildren at play and narratives including a grisly motorcycle accident. All in the name of hyper-realism. I suspect the prime motivation for his work was to dis-idealize the human figure making it all the more real. utilizing an unprecedented use of polyester resin thus paving the way for a new brand figuration. Don't forget how natural the stances are. This type of work flops completely when it looks stiff, no matter how great the detail is executed, it depends more on gesture (the illusion of the effects of gravity on flesh) than anything else. Compared to Duane Hansen, the others are making very expensive manakins. Muerck is great but more because of the way he plays with the sizes of things.
The movie industry and the amusement parks are crawling with people who are very good at this stuff...few are great.
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Old 01-31-2007, 11:09 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Merlion, you are definitely right about Bartholdi. No further comment needed.
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Old 02-01-2007, 05:15 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Well, TI, I can add a comment about France. This is the birthplace of the strong aspiration for liberty, isn't it?
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Old 02-01-2007, 11:56 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Unfortunately for France and most of Europe today, they would prefer to champion "Equality" rather than Liberty.
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Old 02-02-2007, 06:15 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

I have felt that Hansen's work does indeed show an example of a slice of American Pie. Though some of the pieces could be anyone, anywhere that enjoy the same eating lifestyle the carefully picked costumes really leave no doubt as to the nationality of the subjects predomenly focusing on the Northern European decendents that typically dominate religion, capatilistic lifestyle and fashion for the rest of the country. The pleasant irony is that seldom is there a figure that is cutting egde of healthy lifestyle and fashion unless it borders on the obsurd. Kudos to Hansen to be able to bring life casting and a general truthfullness about the general public into the realm of what many consider to be Fine Art.
Personally I like his stuff but more as a social statement than something to emmulate. I basically look at his work as Segal taken to Hyper Realism without any meaningfull social context. Possibly Hyper Realistic Kitsch, which is fine with me. I would value it more than giant diaper pins simply because it is more thought provoking that ordinary objects wrought large and humanity is s subject easy for us to relate to.
As far as the technique involved I much prefere DeAndrea's work with the Hyper Realistic nudes, having seen Hansen's, Segal's ans DeAndrea's work first hand, only DeAndrea took my breath away.

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Old 02-02-2007, 07:46 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

I think I've seen a Duane Hanson piece -- live and in person -- in the Indianapolis Art Museum a few decades ago -- or maybe it was by someone else -- does it really matter ?

The point is -- I was fooled -- I thought the figure was a real person in the gallery -- it was skillfully done -- I had to laugh from surprise -- so what ?

Another piece of joke-art --- ha ha --- it would be funny -- but there are other kinds of museums for that stuff -- wax museums -- and I've never seen a good piece of 20th C. sculpture in that museum -- the kind with dreams I'd like to share -- so I am not amused.

(sorry for being so humorless)
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Old 02-02-2007, 10:27 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Here’s some more of his work.
http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/art...tourists_2.htm

This is a first for me, having never seen Hansons work before and I’m torn equally in two directions.
The amazing hyperrealism and the relaxed true to life postures are flat out remarkable, it’s impossible not to admire this level of mastery.
On the other hand I’m utterly depressed by Hanson’s subject matter - by the lostness of the people depicted, their obesity, their hopelessness and abject sadness, the garish fashion, and 1000 mile stare, the sluggish listlessness……to mix these works with a title like ‘American Dream’ takes on nightmarish proportions. With the bright garish colors of the cloths it all takes on the Scary Clown feel. In the end these works are deeply disturbing to me.
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Old 02-02-2007, 10:48 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Hanson matured as an artist in an era of upheaval and discontent. It is not surprising that his vision and skill was often employed to critcize the status quo. It added another dimension to the flawless execution. His characters were real individuals, George segal's characters were everyone, De Andrea's were naked women (I had the unique experience of standing in a gallery alone amongst half a dozen quite convincing ones).
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Old 02-03-2007, 12:54 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Quote:
Originally Posted by evaldart
Hanson matured as an artist in an era of upheaval and discontent. It is not surprising that his vision and skill was often employed to critcize the status quo.
But cynicism IS the status quo in post-1950 America -- especially among the intellectual/cultural/economic elites --- where, in the absence of all other values/dreams -- all that remains is the value of wealth and power.
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Old 02-03-2007, 04:21 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Nothing wrong with cynicism. It can be interesting and amusing; infectuous even. It usually arrives as a result of some hieghtened awareness that things aren't actually the way everyone thinks they are; peppered with humor and too mal-convinced to offer solutions. Pessimism is just plain no fun...leads to woe, the worst of all.

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Old 02-04-2007, 08:46 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

I find remarks about Hansen's mastery or flawless execution (in the context of his being a figurative sculptor) somewhat hollow. (I say this with respect for those who might hold this opinion) An honest critique of this artist's work will note his reliance upon the fabrication of the actual form through means other than artistic.

From a standpoint of formal technique the bodycasting of his figures removed the need for sculpting skill or mastery of any traditional sculpting methods...though I have always found what he did after the casting process to be the creative aspect of his work. Using the above technique as a means of commentary on American life did show that he was (more like Segal) a step above his fellow bodycaster De Andrea in terms of creative thought. (De Andrea being even more sculpturally one note for just bodycasting the figures in rather typical art poses. I find his work is stiff in person...lacking the swelling volumes of life....muscles and skin being too hard/flat in terms of surface tension. Hansen's bodycasting was a better technique...both did believable polychrome.)

Ron Mueck, however, does actually model his figures by hand....and that requires a great deal of skill. Using both his modeling skill and a creative commentary raises his work up to a much higher level..in my opinion.
I would prefer an unabashedly honest bodycaster like Kiki Smith (or Segal, Gormley)...who doesn't try to fool the viewer with polychrome and a false verisimilitude/memesis..instead focusing on the strength of the idea portrayed to carry the work.

My opinion only....but figurative hyper-realism that is worthy of respect should include the criteria of an artist actually sculpting (modeling for those that might need a further distinction) the work.

To consider Hansen from a standpoint of artistic content (instead of technical skill) seems to be more appropriate. The ARKEN Museum's commentary does seem to be more in this vein.
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Old 02-04-2007, 09:30 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Quote:
Originally Posted by evaldart
Nothing wrong with cynicism. It can be interesting and amusing; infectuous even. It usually arrives as a result of some hieghtened awareness that things aren't actually the way everyone thinks they are; peppered with humor and too mal-convinced to offer solutions. Pessimism is just plain no fun...leads to woe, the worst of all.

But I like tales of woe !

http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/htm...late/dead.html

It's one of the great themes of European art -- and it's enjoyable because it sets human loss into a context of meaning.
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Old 02-04-2007, 09:32 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

The skill and the mastery that exists in Hanson's work lies within areas of technical prowess/fit and finish. To turn a few buckets of resin into the things he turned them into is proof of great skill. Like many 20th century sculptors, clay was not the route he took to study the human form. He is a more important figure sculptor BECAUSE he did it the way he did. He exceeded the limitiations of his medium. One is, after all, in the end assessed by his product.
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Old 02-04-2007, 10:26 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

evaldart,

Not to be overly contentious, but I think you make more of Hansen's stature as a figurative sculptor than his work warrants.

Quote:
To turn a few buckets of resin into the things he turned them into is proof of great skill. Like many 20th century sculptors, clay was not the route he took to study the human form. He is a more important figure sculptor BECAUSE he did it the way he did. He exceeded the limitiations of his medium. One is, after all, in the end assessed by his product.

When 1/2 of your sculptural process is taking a bodycast of a live person....this does not make you a more important figurative sculptor...unless taking short cuts is now a sign of extraordinary creative talent. He worked firmly within the limits of the medium and didn't push any boundaries because of how he worked. Whether you use clay, wax, plaster, fiber, etc...is irrelevant. He didn't make the resin look like those people...the cast did. He spent most of his creative effort on patination and finishing processes....not sculpting the form. His use of bodycasts was part gimmick...part mimetic trick...part 3-D Trompe L'oeil, but his subject matter in the long run elevated his work beyond those labels...beyond his process.

Quote:
One is, after all, in the end assessed by his product.
In figurative art this isn't exactly true. Process has and will always be a consideration in the creation of figurative work. Of the figure sculptors I know...most value an artist's ability to create form themselves...not use a process to lift the form from a live person. The end doesn't always justify the means...though I will agree that many artists now days do subscribe to this.
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:33 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

I, like mountshang and others, found Hanson’s figures funny and in these terms of reference I quite enjoyed them. I admit that I find humour in art is a desirable attribute.
Granted the life casting of the sculpture does detract from the idea of originality and technical skill of the artist, in my view, but I think that Hanson does make up for this in other ways in his work. Within these figures I find both humour as well as a certain sad truth that comes from the story that they tell, this I think is “fine art”

I would be very impressed if he had modelled these figures, especially in that to achieve a likeness of this quality he would have had to model (sculpt) the figures nude and then create (sculpt) the clothes that cover them, thus requiring twice the amount of work and exceptional skill.
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Old 02-05-2007, 07:48 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Tales of woe are fine, songs too, just not my own. The reason I think so highly of Hansen is because good hyper-realistic work is rare...and for the same reason few would try to sculpt Pieta-like drapery in marble, few attempt truly convincing realism in painting and sculpture. Its just hard to do. Body casting was the BEST way for him to achieve ACTUAL proportion. As good as Muerck is as a modeler, he's off a bit, sometimes the eyes look too big and its distracting but thats fine because the unusual experience he is providing does not hinge on that kind of perfection. And, the subject of all hyper-realist work is the realism, other content is an accompaniment like so many peas sitting next to a porterhouse steak.
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Old 02-06-2007, 12:18 AM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Quote:
As good as Muerck is as a modeler, he's off a bit, sometimes the eyes look too big and its distracting
If you read up on Mueck's process you'll find his distortions are made for a reason. He specifically changes some proportions so he won't be accused of bodycasting and others to enhance the effect of the work. He is hyper, but not photo realistic.


Quote:
the subject of all hyper-realist work is the realism, other content is an accompaniment like so many peas sitting next to a porterhouse steak.
I'm not sure this makes sense....If Hansen is an obvious example of that sort of realism. Unlike De Andrea...Hansen's work is very much about the 'other content'. As Blake points out, the 'humor' and 'sad truth' of Hansen's figures are part and parcel of his realism and very important to how they are seen. Now, De Andrea only has the porterhouse steak in his work, but the peas in Hansen's work are darn integral to the 'why' of what he does.
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Old 02-06-2007, 10:33 PM
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Re: Sculptures of the American Dream

Quote:
Originally Posted by evaldart
The reason I think so highly of Hansen is because good hyper-realistic work is rare....

Obviously, hyper-realism does not appeal to me --- but out of curiosity --- I'm wondering whether you'd consider Hanson's work better than what might be found in a
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