Hugh Hayden: Border States
15 September – 27 October 2018
Lisson Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Texas-born, New York-based artist Hugh Hayden. This marks the artist’s first exhibition with the gallery and will feature sculpture created from wood indigenous to the United States and Mexico border.
Hugh Hayden’s work investigates natural and artificial means of identification. From early works featuring hair, feathers, tree bark and clothing to recent sculptures created from salvaged Christmas trees, Hayden begins with objects which inherently carry significant associations with societal categorization: race, religion, ethnicity, education, sexuality and the like. Using a rigorous process of sawing, sanding and sculpting, he combines disparate types of wood to create new composite forms which address themes of assimilation and acceptance, and metaphorically disrupt traditional American social context.
In the exhibition at Lisson Gallery, Hayden explores notions of citizenship, manifest destiny and the contested boundaries between people and nations. He has collected different varieties of wood from his home state of Texas; including Eastern Red Cedar, a wood with a pinkish interior also called ‘Aromatic Cedar’ for its fragrance; Ashe or ‘Blueberry’ cedar, found in the area’s Hill Country; ‘Texas Ebony’, identified by its dark color and found in the region that lies at the Texas and Mexico border; and Mesquite, which is known for its weed-like ability to spread quickly and the invasive nature in which it requires a great deal of water from an already arid climate. This lumber, gathered in highly politicized areas, has been combined to create forms that typify the idealistic US notions of family values and home ownership — a shared dinner table, the white picket fence, a baby crib and stroller. These personal components embodied the greater idea that dreams are attainable by all people through hard work and determination and that upward mobility can be visible through a series of material objects.
However, the exhibition arises at a time when America’s characteristic optimism is at a low ebb and when the widely-held ideals of the country as a land of opportunity, hope and familial togetherness, are similarly in crisis. In the current geopolitical climate, the works begin to take on a new, twisted relevance. The fence which is traditionally a status of having achieved a middle-class suburban life, is now a wall, erected to exclude. The table, the crib and stroller which once embodied the community and safe routines of an everyday life now sit empty — relics of the American dream.
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