New York

Harmony Hammond

Lamagna Gallery

Harmony Hammond sets forth a didactic program in which she seeks to inform the viewer of woman’s role in the evolution of art. But the way her recent show divides in half illustrates the weakness of her method of arguing, while enhancing the strength of her art. In an attempt to simulate a section of a natural history museum on the archeology of primitive cultures, she placed an oak display case in the center of the room. On the top and in the drawers are deliberately constructed pottery shards embossed with textile and plaited basket textures. They are made of clay and coated with a thick, gummy paint in tones of red, black, gray and green. Within a drawer each piece is stacked or placed with consideration for its form, color and enhancement of the overall composition. Each drawer is simultaneously meant to be read as a single unit and as a pendant to another drawer. The notion of constructing a sculpture of a series of paired shallow drawers filled with colored objects, combined at the viewer’s discretion, is an innovative idea.

In an attempt to give her arguments about the relevancy of pottery shards a more significant base, Hammond issued several accompanying statements from Peter T. Furst’s article, “The Roots and Continuities of Shamanism.” They view fragments as having great potency because they exist in the present while having dynamic connections with the past. If one believes in psychometry, the science of intuitively reading history out of objects, these contentions may be possible. But Hammond’s fragments are fakes, and all fakes are, to some extent, sad. Hers are especially so, because, although they seek to be embodiments of the past, they are thoroughly modern objects. They deny the forces they seek to evoke.

On the walls were hung a series of impastoed paintings in oil and wax. A brush handle was used to incise the “tweedy” surface patterns and cut through the upper layers of wax and pigment to reveal a ragged flickering of light tones. Their rough nubby texture is one of the more satisfying surfaces for an allover field. Although she never explicitly states it, the paintings, in their evocation of textiles, may also be part of Hammond’s program. But here the possible point that textiles were an art form invented by women was lost in my primarily sensuous response to the work.

––Ann-Sargent Wooster