Where Kevin West left off in his fascinating look at the L.A. art scene of the Sixties and Seventies in our October issue, L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints, a new coffee table book from Tilton Gallery, artfully picks up the trail. The 400 pages of images, essays, and first-hand accounts of those on the scene tell a story of the African-American assemblage artists who found their cultural identity through their work.
There’s beauty in Bettye Sayre’s mixed-media windows, wit in the folk-inspired dolls of John Outterbridge, and sorrow in Norah Purifoy’s sculptures salvaged from the debris of the Watts Riots; but it’s David Hammons’ prints that take center stage. In using his body as an ersatz printing plate, the translucent traces of the artist’s broad nose, full lips, and clasped hands against bold abstractions and silk-screened stars-and-stripes leaves a ghostly but indelible impression of what it was—what it is—to be black in America.
Hammons: Photograph by Bruce W. Talamon. Courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.; Untitled (Detail): Photograph by Bruce W. Talamon. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.; Boy with Flag: Courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.; The Wine Leading the Wine: Courtesy Tilton Gallery, New York.