Duane Hanson’s Forceful Realism Enthralls Viewers at the Serpentine

Duane Hanson’s lifelike and life-size sculptures come alive in his first survey show in the UK since 1997 on show at Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

In forties and fifties America, Abstract Expressionism ruled. Pop art gave realism a way back in, but even in our own age there is a degree of embarrassment about realism in contemporary art.

The late American realist sculptor Duane Hanson stuck to his guns attempting to re-connect art with everyday life and put the spotlight on a large portion of society that are typically ignored.

During the sixties Hanson’s life-like figures caused widespread controversy shocking viewers with works like Trash (1967); in which a dead baby suffocated with a plastic bag lies within a dustbin amid an umbrella, beer cans and various other outcast items. The latter is the only work displayed from his early period, but is still as shocking as it was nearly half a century ago.

'Trash,' Duane Hanson, 1967
‘Trash,’ Duane Hanson, 1967

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Pop Art Party at mumok, Vienna!

You know those artworks you always read about but are somewhat convinced you’ll never actually see in person, or in other words, to remix The Bard, that art that dreams are made of? For me two of those bucket list pieces are any colour of Andy Warhol‘s ‘Race Riot‘ and ‘Car Crash’ screenprintsBoth works, as part of his series originally themed ‘Death in America,’ and now known as the ‘Death and Disaster’ paintings, are quite a bit more disturbing than the Marilyns, Liz Taylors, flowers and soup cans many of us have come to associate with the Pop Artist. The former depicts infamous police violence being inflicted on civil rights protestors in Birmingham, Alabama and the latter, a fateful car crash brought on by a Chicago car chase, in which the victim being pursued by police lost control of his car and died. (Fun fact, Silver Car Crash, the artist’s silver print of this series, holds the record for Warhol’s highest price at Auction, $105,000,000.)

Anyway, as I boarded my flight to Vienna last Wednesday for a two-day, post-birthday trip courtesy of my lovely boyfriend, in no reality was I expecting to see not one, but both of these great works during my visit. But then again, at the time, I didn’t yet know about ‘Ludwig Goes Pop.

Entrance to 'Ludwig Goes Pop' at mumok, Vienna. Note Andy Warhol's 'White Brillo Boxes'  (1964) and 'Campbell's Boxes' (1964) through the glass.
Entrance to ‘Ludwig Goes Pop’ at mumok, Vienna. Note Andy Warhol’s ‘White Brillo Boxes’ (1964) and ‘Campbell’s Boxes’ (1964) through the glass.

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