Description: signed and dated 06 on the reverse dirt on paper in silver frame, with Bible
Dimensions: framed: 118 by 56 in. 299.7 by 142.2 cm.
Provenance: L&M Arts, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Notes: David Hammons' rare series of Basketball drawings are some of the most profound and poetic works in his oeuvre. In the present work, the support is a sheet of paper which is the height of a regulation basketball hoop. The artist covers a basketball in Harlem dirt which is repeatedly bounced on the surface. At the bottom of the sheet the reversed impression of "NBA" can be read, each letter materializing from the background like a ghostly apparition in a turbulent fog. Behind, a Holy Bible is propped against the wall and kept in place by the weight of the framed work, a firm support or an irrelevant afterthought depending on your point of view.
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Hammons began making art on the theme of basketball in the early 1980's with performances such as Human Pegs/Pole Dreams and his historic Higher Goals installation in Brooklyn in 1986 and continues to do so to the present day. For Hammons, basketball is not the path to enlightenment that so many young disenfranchised African-American youths believe. Rather, the sport has been corrupted into something exploitative and ultimately detrimental. Indeed, in describing Higher Goals, the artist noted, "It's an anti-basketball sculpture. Basketball has become a problem in the black community because kids aren't getting an education. They're pawns in someone else's game. That's why it's called Higher Goals. It means you should have higher goals in life than basketball." (Exh. Cat., New York, P.S.1 Museum, David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, 1991, p. 29)
Accordingly, there are many interpretations of the Basketball Drawing series. In describing one of the few other works from this series which was acquired by Buffalo's Albright-Knox Gallery in 2001, Jennifer Bayles notes, "It can be seen as an homage to the improvisational 'art' of African American basketball playing and as a comment on the remote and museum-bound conventions of abstract art. An elegant, cloud-like minimalist field of gray, created in an unequivocally anti-art material and process, this 'drawing' brings the dirt and exuberance of Harlem into the quiet confines of the art world." (http://www.albrightknox.org/acquisitions/acq_2001/Hammons.html) In so doing, Hammons taps into art history's long tradition of radical critiques of contemporary societal mores and modes of thought.