Harmony Hammond: Accumulations

Press release from Alexander Grey Associates

Now and Then, 2022, Oil and mixed media on canvas, Approx. 48 x 48 in each (121.9 x 121.9 cm each); 48 3/8 x 96 3/4 in overall (122.9 x 245.7 cm overall). Courtesy of the artist.

Harmony Hammond: Accumulations
at Alexander Grey Associates, New York
April 27–June 10, 2023

Alexander Gray Associates, New York presents Harmony Hammond: Accumulations, the artist’s sixth exhibition with the Gallery. The show features a selection of paintings from the last three years that continue Hammond’s project of imbuing abstraction with bodily content and a corporeal narrative, disrupting the utopian myth of modernist abstraction. Underlying this practice is the artist’s belief that materials and the ways they are manipulated can bring social and political content into formal abstraction.

Sited in the intersection between painting and sculpture, Hammond’s new works expand on her signature thick paint and near-monochrome palette. She explains her heavily layered surfaces—“stained and disturbed” by colors asserting themselves from underneath—as dealing with “material transformation and healing.” Works like Chenille #11 (2020–21) and Chenille #12 (2021) incorporate rough burlap, straps, and grommeted holes in layers of paint. While the raised patterns and warm white color recall the soft texture and domestic warmth of chenille bedspreads, the irregularities of the torn and frayed fabric revealing obscured color “mirror the imperfections and experiences written upon our bodies.”

Building on her ongoing series of Chenilles, Hammond’s Cross Paintings are punctuated with protrusions, holes, and seams, foregrounding notions of suture and concealment. For the artist, the agitated cross form in Black Cross II (2020–21) simultaneously serves as a stand-in for the figure, an intersection, and a plus sign, signifying both agency and accumulation. She describes, “The pieced and patched background pushes up from underneath the cross form, struggling to fit in or pull away from the confines of the painting surface and rectangle.”

The occasional incorporation of repurposed linens—tablecloths, towels, placemats, and quilt covers–situates the composition’s suggestive narrative within a domestic environment. In Bandaged Grid #10 (La Mesa) (2022), the repetition and order of the grid—rooted in both textiles and modernist painting—is interrupted by color and strips of fabrics emerging from the field of grommeted holes above a torn and stained embroidered tablecloth. While the layered grid evokes the bandaging of the body, the ripped, patched, and stained sections accentuate what is covered—the narrative hidden beneath the surface.

In many of the works, Hammond employs women’s traditional arts as a metaphor for female bodies. Patched (2022) incorporates a stained and frayed red and off-white patterned quilt cover. By positioning slit blood-stained cotton patches centrally within the cross-like areas of the grid-based chain pattern of the quilt cover, Hammond charges the stitched composition with gendered brutality. She states, “the painting alludes to voices of resistance that refuse to be silenced.” Responding to social unrest and political upheaval—including the United States Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade—the punctured and patched surface of the work speaks to the violence and precarity of our current times.

Further highlighting Hammond’s interest in “material engagement,” diptychs like Then and Now and Now and Then (both 2022) juxtapose the artist’s visual strategies from the 1970s with her current formal and conceptual concerns. These two-part works combine her Bandaged Quilts with panels that recall her Weave Paintings (1973–77). In these compositions, Hammond draws parallels between minimalist monochromatic painting and vernacular gendered craft traditions, advancing her mission of advocating for an expanded art history that challenges reductive, sexist historical narratives of abstraction.

A survey exhibition of Hammond’s work, Material Witness, Five Decades of Art, was presented in 2019 at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT, and traveled to the Sarasota Art Museum, Ringling College of Art and Design, FL in 2020. Other one-person exhibitions of her work include Becoming/UnBecoming Monochrome, RedLine, Denver, CO (2014); Big Paintings 2002–2005, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM (2005); Monster Prints, SITE Santa Fe, NM (2002); and Ten Years 1970–1980, Glen Hanson Gallery and W.A.R.M, Minneapolis, NM (1981), among others. Hammond’s work will be featured in Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction, a traveling group exhibition curated by Lynne Cooke, opening in September 2023 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA. Her work has been included in many group exhibitions, including Women in Abstraction, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2021), traveled to Guggenheim Museo Bilbao, Spain (2021); Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); Wack!: Art and the Feminist Revolution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2007), traveled to National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2007); MoMA PS1, Queens, NY (2008); and Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia (2008), among others. Hammond’s work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. She is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2014); the Lifetime Achievement Award, Women’s Caucus for Art (2014); the Distinguished Feminist Award, College Art Association (2013); Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowship (2007 and 1989); Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (1998); John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1991); and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1983 and 1979), among others. Hammond’s book, Wrappings: Essays on Feminism, Art and the Martial Arts (1984), is a foundational publication on 1970s feminist art. Her groundbreaking book Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History (2000) received a Lambda Literary Award and remains the primary text on the subject.