New York

Harmony Hammond

Lerner-Heller Gallery

For several years Harmony Hammond has been making bulky sculptures out of ladderlike wood and metal forms wrapped in cloth and covered in Rhoplex. She paints them and groups them against gallery walls with a striking awareness of physical presences. Their textures, sizes, shapes, and colors suggest human forms with the subtlety and wit of an artist who has developed a highly economical style. Lucy Lippard wrote a year ago that “buried” in these forms is a militant feminist consciousness (which Hammond herself has articulated in writing); Lippard’s choice of the word “buried” is appropriate. Hammond’s politics are not only concealed, but carefully planted in all aspects of these works.

It is tempting to assign a humorous, anthropomorphic significance to Hammond’s sculptures. Large, solid, and warmly colored ladders support smaller, brightly colored ones which seem animated enough to be growing into bigger ones before one’s eyes. But the immediate, animated quality of these pieces can distract the viewer from their more subtle symbolism. The tactile properties of these ladders, their simultaneous hardness and softness, are the more interesting aspects of Hammond’s work. Though their wrapped cloth has a bulbous softness from a distance, their Rhoplex “skins” give them a hard-edged awkwardness close up. If they seem cozy and welcoming at first, the more one looks the more uncomfortable-looking they become. This tension helps to make Hammond’s ladders, even when grouped closely together as in Hunkertime, at once unified and separate units. Their imperfections and distinctions are as manifest as their collective, anthropomorphic presence.

Particularly in Hunkertime, Hammond evokes a sense not only of durability, but also of the possibility for change. How one may interpret that possibility, keeping in mind her political point of view, remains unspoken. But her highly articulate visual style is strong enough to make the implied promises well worth the wonder.

Joan Casademont