Friday, November 14, 2008

Real Inanimate

Tourists II, 1988

Duane Hanson
Autobody filler, fibreglass and mixed media, with accessories life size
Saatchi Gallery

To end the week with another foray into photo-realism we shift off the painted surface to the physical space of the gallery. Duane Hanson's hyper-realistic sculptures are practically indistinguishable from the real thing. With a focus on the typical every-day figure, the tourist, security guard, badly dressed person, Hanson creates exquisite incredibly life-like sculptures of middle-America.

Hanson casts from live models and recreates his sculptures in mixed media, often fiber glass resin (similar to Ron Mueck). I've seen many Hanson sculptures over the years, and am still occasionally duped (though briefly). The TMA has one of a forlorn, disheveled slouched man in a chair just to the side of the entrance of their contemporary galleries and while I am fully aware of it's existence as an inanimate sculpture, it still manages to command a presence. One which even as I intend to walk past it I am pulled to turn around to acknowledge as if he is a human sitting in the corner deserving recognition of existence.

As amazing as they appear, there is much more to Hanson's sculpture than illusionistic wizardry. Hanson was a social realist, looking at a range of people in society and making observations about their condition in life. He recognized and admired ordinary people, like laborers and the elderly, who he believed had been marginalized by society. Through his art he sought to make the public aware of their presence and contributions to society." (Duane Hanson portraits from the Heartland -Mark M. Johnson)

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