Palm Springs Desert Museum

Palm Springs, CA



Duane Hanson: Virtual Reality


A new exhibition of 24 figurative sculptures by the late artist Duane Hanson (1925-1996) has been organized by the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Duane Hanson: Virtual Reality will be on view September 10 through December 31, 2000.

This exhibition of the renowned sculptor's life-size figures, created between 1976 and 1995, is a rare opportunity for the public to see a large number of Duane Hanson's hyper-realistic figures. His work portrays ordinary, average Americans posed naturally - such as a retired couple resting on a bench, a cowboy leaning against the wall, an overweight and blistered man "exercising" on a John Deere lawnmower, and a cleaning lady with a rolling trash barrel and equipment. (left: Old Woman in Folding Chair, 1976, polyester resin and fiberglass, polychromed in oil, with accessories, Collection of Mrs. Duane Hanson, Photograph by Roy C. Crogan)

Using cast polychromed fiberglass, vinyl or bronze, and enhanced by real clothing, accessories and props, Hanson's sculptures capture a realism that compels the viewer to approach the figures for a closer look. The viewer is challenged to question the distinction between reality and illusion.

"He has given us an art that is accessible to many people through different levels of observation and understanding. The painstaking realism of this work enlivens our emotions and sense of human presence," said Katherine Hough, Director of Collections/Exhibitions.

Hanson's art is about addressing human attitudes - their fatigue, frustration and rejection. By selecting ordinary individuals leading unremarkable lives - the cleaning lady, policeman, house painter, the elderly, and children playing - Hanson communicates the culture of America in the last quarter of the twentieth century and asks that we look at ourselves through them. His sculptures encourage the viewer to think more carefully about the human condition and to recognize intolerance and prejudices while contemplating our own existence.

Hanson graduated in 1946 from Macalester College in St. Paul as the school's first art major and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1951 from Cranbrook Academy of Michigan. From 1953 to 1960, Hanson taught art in Munich and Bremerhaven, Germany. While teaching, he continued to make sculptures and began experimenting with synthetic resin materials, specifically polyester resin and fiberglass that ultimately became his chosen media beginning in the late 1960s. It was the use of these resins that caused his terminal illness and death decades later.

Along with American artists George Segal, Edward Kienholz and John DeAndrea, Hanson influenced the current rage in hyper-realistic figuration as seen in works by artists such as Dines and Jake Chapman, Charles Ray and Vanessa Beecroft. Hanson's sculptures have helped lead the way to the development of the late 20th-century art movement first identified as Mannequin Art and associated with artists like Paul McCarthy and John Miller, among others.

Organized by the Palm Springs Desert Museum, this project is funded by The Henry Luce Foundation, Palm Springs Desert Museum's Contemporary Art Council, Palm Springs Desert Museum's Artists Council, Brautigam-Kaplan Foundation, and Wilbert and Marybeth Waterman.

The exhibition will travel to San Jose, California; Reno, Nevada; and Portland, Oregon, after its first stop in Palm Springs. it will be accompanied by an 80-page full-color catalog written and published by the Museum.

Several educational components will also accompany the exhibition including a video about the artist; text and photos explaining the casting process; and plaster casts used to form a completed bronze sculpture in the exhibition.

Read other selected articles about Duane Hanson:

Also see 20th Century American Sculpture

Read more about the Palm Springs Desert Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/4/11

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