David Hammons creates works of art from materials that are stereotypically associated with the African American experience. Riffing on modes of abstraction, he infuses this history with sarcasm and clever puns that encourage the viewer to consider his or her relation to race and its visual depictions. In the early 1980s, Hammons began making art on the theme of basketball—a sport that he believes can have both a positive and a negative impact on young black men. Here, the artist employed a basketball as his drawing tool, bouncing it in the dirt of Harlem and then onto a sheet of paper the same height as a regulation hoop. Behind the drawing is a suitcase, which implies the psychological distance between inner-city neighborhoods and the rarified worlds of art and professional sports. Since “traveling” in the game of basketball results in a penalty, this element of the work also signifies the unexpected consequences that may result from certain choices. For instance, impractical hopes of a professional sports career may lead young players to neglect education and other important aspects of life.
Label from Drawing: The Beginning of Everything, July 8–October 15, 2017