Hugh Hayden: Huey

Lisson Gallery beautifully presents a new body of work by Hugh Hayden, Huey, which will be on view through August 13th.

Having long examined the concept of the American Dream with an aim to unpack its ideals, Texas-born Hugh Hayden offers a retrospective of his Southern upbringing by interweaving highlights of institutions that play key roles in the American culture. While familiar items associated with food, home, and childhood are submitted to unexpected and at times defiant alterations, the artist reflects on the history of social politics in the United States - church, sports, school, hair, etc. and their impact on cultural outlooks.

Through culinary installations and sculptures, whether meticulously carved from wood, rendered in cast iron, or pieced from cardboard boxes, Hayden studies the entrenched nature of cultural expectations. It is interesting to note how the artist carefully selects specific types of wood for different artworks, bearing in mind the historical and social frameworks within which they occur. Huey is covered in three rooms: a barber shop sanctuary, a basketball chapel and an ebony vault.

The sanctuary explores the expected participation of youth in sports, education, and religion. Hayden’s bristled wooden works in that particular space stress on how a subject can be simultaneously desirable but uncomfortable, creating a new stability through an abrasive action which, like the American Dream, is challenging and difficult to exist in.

The braided works of the second chapel-like room, consisting of hung woven basketball hoops made out of hair, rattan and vine, merge the hand made with hypermasculine athletics resulting in a queerness at odds with the aspirations of becoming a professional athlete.

The final room encompasses the concepts of agency, blackness and invisibility. Sculptures that refer to the body, conveying both fast and soothing movements, offer the chance to bathe in the many hues of blackness.