Lisson Gallery

'Hugh Hayden: American Vernacular' at Laumeier Sculpture Park, MO, USA

16 February 2024

From 10 February - 12 May 2024, Laumeier Sculpture Park presents Hugh Hayden's first Midwest solo presentation ‘American Vernacular’ which explores a decade of his work in a variety of mediums including newly commissioned works. The exhibition will be on view in the Aronson Fine Arts Center’s Whitaker Foundation Gallery and in the Outdoor Galleries, near The Way Field. This exhibition was organised by deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in consultation with Laumeier and will debut at Laumeier before its presentation at any other U.S. venue.

Hayden’s vision draws from his personal memory and experience as an American and African American, born and raised in Texas. Growing up Black and gay in the South, and later training and working for a decade as an architect before becoming an artist, Hayden’s work merges organic materials with built space, and draws on folk and fine art vocabularies to capture various aspects of the artist’s personal biography and lived experiences.

Hayden often takes forms from everyday objects and reconstructs them, creating sculptures out of wood and other natural materials that become proxies for critical cultural issues. He draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including popular culture, traditional crafts, and storytelling traditions. Hayden’s artworks also engage with unseen threats of domestic life or the ideals and inequities that cut across racial lines in the U.S. The artist often grapples with an uncomfortable reckoning between the promise of the American Dream, the persistence of “bootstrap” ideology and the myth making around progress. The artist states, “All of my work is about the American dream, whether it’s a table that’s hard to sit at or a thorny school desk. It’s a dream that is seductive, but difficult to inhabit.”

The artworks presented in ‘American Vernacular’ generally refer to distinct types of public and private spaces and feature the artist’s take on the trappings of these locations. For example, sculptures made from cast iron pans evoke home kitchens, elaborately decorated basketball backboards and hoops and helmets suggest sports fields and courts, and a row of church pews facing a neon “altar” evokes places of worship. Outdoors, in a wooded area selected by the artist, Hayden has evoked the space of a schoolroom with a selection from the installation Brier Patch. Sixteen traditional wooden schoolhouse seat/desk combinations are arranged into four rows, as we would expect to find them in a classroom. But their surfaces unexpectedly erupt into an impenetrable tangle of tree branches. In this work, Hayden suggests that the educational system that is supposed to serve and nurture all children may in fact be scarier and harder to navigate for some.

Hugh Hayden: ‘American Vernacular’ was organised by Sarah Montross, Chief Curator, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, The Trustees, Lincoln, MA, in partnership with Dana Turkovic, Curator, Laumeier Sculpture Park. Brier Patch was commissioned by Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York where it was first exhibited.

‘American Vernacular’ is on view from 10 February - 12 May 2024.

Find further information via Laumeier Sculpture Park.

Image: Hugh Hayden, 3 Story Rapunzel, 2024, PVC, powder coated steel, synthetic hair, 121.9 x 152.4 x 61 cm, 48 x 60 x 24 in

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