Monday, 18 July 2016

Did your mum have one of those hairdryers?

Make some time to see the retrospective exhibition of American artist Duane Hanson's sculptures. It's on until 28 August at Villa Paloma in Monaco and gathers together ten key works, representing the mundanity of life and work in Middle America.

What the experts say

The sculptures were created in the last 25 years of Hanson's life, during a period when he moved away from the violent depictions that characterized his work in the 60s. This new direction produced likenesses of tired and overlooked members of society and became hugely popular with the public, less so with the critics.

What we thought

There is an almost creepy feeling when you first view the figures; they are cast from live models and are life size, dressed in real clothing, reading real magazines and carrying real handbags. Some stand by their work equipment, others lean against walls or sit at tables. But they do not move.

Once you overcome the strange sensation, the urge is to get up close and inspect the details; a broken link on a gold watch strap, a newspaper headline about Michael Jackson, bruises and a plaster on the housewife's leg. Then the discomfort returns. For a moment I thought the housewife would scold me for reading over her shoulder. My friend took a closer look at the eyes of the old man sitting on a bench and half expected a thump and an exhortation to "get lost!"

The work is reminiscent of the output of film-makers and photographers who documented society over the past 150 years. It doesn't glorify its subjects, it may or may not seek to evoke an emotional response in the observer, it merely reflects the realness of life. In some it may evoke memories; we used to have a pouf just like that; I used to play that game with my brother; did your mum have one of those hairdryers? Others will find the characters so photogenic that it will be impossible to resist taking a selfie.

The exhibition above all encouraged us to think about people around us. We are all so dazzled by luxury and beauty, especially in Monaco, that we fail to notice the normal; supermarket workers, street sweepers and waiters. We should, like Duane Hanson, see all these people "with sympathy and affection."

For more information visit the venue website at: Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.

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