The Melt Goes On Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons
by Hope Madden
In 1983, a woman buys a snowball from a street vendor. He has many snowballs laid out in a beautiful pattern on a blanket on a wintery New York street, surrounded by other vendors. She thinks she’s helping a homeless man but keeps the snowball in her parents’ freezer in Queens for months before letting her mom toss it.
Decades later she realizes the seller was David Hammons, an American artist who defied boundaries, mocked socially accepted practice, and became one of the most influential voices in art.
I bet she wishes she’d kept the snowball.
Documentarians Harold Crooks and Judd Tully share countless similar anecdotes as they unveil, layer upon layer, something of what Hammons meant to an art world desperately in need of him.
“The more he tells the art world to go fuck itself, the more they want him,” says poet Steve Cannon, whose poem “Rousing the Rubble” offers worthy narration to sections of the film. An ode to Hammons, the poem announces the artist’s many phases, as does the documentary:
Booomboxes, into bebop, hip hop, scatter shots – lower poles Higher Goals –
into human hair – into Bottle caps into people and their attributes –
Cannon’s interviews, as well as those with art historians, artists, curators and collectors, will have to mainly suffice. Although Hammons himself does appear and speak on a handful of rare occasions, his voice is mainly absent (he prefers not to be interviewed, the doc clarifies).
Those who do talk illuminate the spirit of an artist whose work defies categorization. That work, luckily, we do get to view throughout the film. Provocative, racial, absurd, prescient – the art itself is all of this, and the film points to Hammons’s rejection of the norms of the art world as among his most valuable qualities.
The Melt Goes On Forever celebrates the audacity of Hammons’s curation, the subversive nature of his exhibition and the humor in his reactions and presentations, but is quick to point out that his lasting impact on art in the U.S. and globally is more a product of the intensity and relevance of the work itself.
The Melt Goes On Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons screens this weekend only at the Wexner Center for the Arts.