“Confronting his audience with an array of freestanding vintage microphones at the show’s entrance, Hammons forcefully evoked the uneasy history of the black body onstage in America. Black genius reverberates through the grand Upper East Side space, permeating the meticulous selection of objects and bringing to mind a range of people, stories, histories, and raw feeling. None is more powerful than the famous hood, which hovered uncomfortably close to the ceiling upstairs, relevant as ever. Hammons is clever, twisted, uncompromising: Like a trickster god, he masks and obfuscates to reveal deeper truths. This retrospective was the highlight of my year. “
- Grace Bonner
“With museums around the globe ready to turn cartwheels to land this artist’s half-century retrospective, Hammons handed the coveted honor to secondary-market dealer, ex-Goldman Sachs trader, and dad to Donald Trump’s national finance chairman, long his pointed choice as agent. “But why, oh why?” well-meaning curators everywhere beat their chests. Because it is not the way “we” do things. Because Hammons’s art—it’s long-standing subjects being race and class and the way they undergird the almost-all-white art machine he continues to play like a fine-tuned instrument—consists as much in his performative inhabitation of the system as in the objects on view in this astutely honed sampling across his career. Who needs the imprimatur of a museum when you can commander a capacious town house in Manhattan’s toniest neighborhood and drop by to tweak the fruits of your life’s work when the spirit moves you?
- Jack Bankowsky
“We’ve waited years for a survey of work by this grittiest of New York artists, and finally a concise presentation of his greatest hits since the late 1960s appears…at a posh gallery on the Upper East Side? Hammons is notoriously particular and knowingly attuned to the market and clearly enjoyed the disjunction, but one of the city’s museums needs to negotiate a full-on retrospective. “
- Claire Bishop