September 9, 2016 –
July 20, 2017
David Hammons is on our mind.
A year-long series of public events, commissioned essays, and reading group meetings.

"David Hammons: Five Decades," Mnuchin Gallery, NY, 2016 (installation view) (photo: Tom Powel Imaging)
"David Hammons: Five Decades," Mnuchin Gallery, NY, 2016 (installation view) (photo: Tom Powel Imaging)

Introduction by Anthony Huberman

Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons (b. 1943) is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

(...continue reading).


We began our season by publishing new essays about individual works or bodies of work. Tirza True Latimer writes about Concerto in Black and Blue (2002); Apsara DiQuinzio writes about the body prints; Lisa Heinis writes about Untitled (Kool Aid Drawing) (2003-2007) and Untitled (2009-2015); and Kim Anno writes about Higher Goals (1986).

So far, we heard a recorded lecture by David Hammons, originally delivered in 1994, and a response by Philippe Vergne; we visited works by David Hammons in public and private collections around the Bay Area, led by Sampada Aranke; we hosted Charles Burnett and screened his film Killer of Sheep; we co-presented, with Kadist, an exhibition of scores by Wadada Leo Smith and his conversation with Hamza Walker; we screened archival footage of a performance by Butch Morris, introduced by Zeena Parkins; and we co-presented, with The Lab, a performance by Zeena Parkins and William Winant, a performance by Wadada Leo Smith with Ikue Mori, Anthony Davis, and Hardedge; an evening of poetry and performance organized by Tongo Eisen-Martin; a lecture about Hammons by Manthia Diawara; another lecture about Hammons (and Ralph Ellison) by Fred Moten; an evening about the color blue with short talks, films, and songs; a performance by Yuji Agematsu; a night of drinking and listening to music Hammons has included in some of his past works; and a performance by keyon gaskin.

We have also published an additional series of new essays about single works. Sampada Aranke writes about Blind Reality (1986); Veronica Jackson writes about Putting on Sunday Manners (1990); and Jacqueline Francis and Tina Takemoto write about Dak'Art 2004 Sheep Raffle (2004).

Check the calendar for updates about upcoming events


The reading group included Kim Anno, Binta Ayofemi, Juana Berrío, Apsara DiQuinzio, Vincent Fecteau, Jacqueline Francis, Caitlin Haskell, Anthony Huberman, Tirza Latimer, Patricia Maloney, Jordana Moore Saggese, Julian Myers-Szupinska, Tina Takemoto, and Robin Wright, with research assistance provided by Leila Grothe, Lisa Heinis, and Veronica Jackson.

With special thanks to David Hammons, Carmen Hammons, AC Hudgins, Lois Plehn, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.