Hugh Hayden’s First Monograph Surveys the Inhospitable Nature of the American Dream


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“Hedges” (2019), sculpted wood, lumber, hardware, mirror, and carpet, 144 x 208 x 208 inches. Photo by Mark Waldhauser, courtesy of the Shed Open Call. All images © Hugh Hayden courtesy of Lisson Gallery, shared with permission

The first monograph of the incisive Hugh Hayden (previously), American Vernacular celebrates a decade of sculptures and installations that evidence his keen political and cultural consciousness. Published by MIT Press and edited by Sarah Montross, the 256-page volume is heavy with images, featuring 90 photos of Hayden’s work that explore conceptions of race and class through intersections with nature.

Frequently working with trees and bark—the latter even envelops the book’s cover with “HUGH” appearing carved into the rough, protective sheath—Hayden is drawn to wood and often utilizes the material to consider the vast array of issues born from slavery and its enduring legacy. Both “Hedges” and “The Jones Part 3” shown here feature branches protruding from the surfaces of the domestic works that make them impossible to use, a metaphor Hayden returns to as he examines the inhospitable realities of life in the U.S. “All of my work is about the American dream, whether it’s a table that’s hard to sit at or a thorny school desk. It’s a dream that is seductive but difficult to inhabit,” he says.

American Vernacular is currently available from Bookshop.

 

“Hangers #3” (2018), fir, walnut, and ebony with oak dowel, steel, 11 x 28 ¼ x 12 ½ inches. Private collection

“Good Hair 3 (Brainwash)” (2021), white oak, wire-drawn black boar hair (bristle), metal face mask, 10 x 11 ½ x 9 ½ inches. Private collection

Detail of “Hedges” (2019), sculpted wood, lumber, hardware, mirror and carpet, 144 x 208 x 208 inches. Photo by Mark Waldhauser, courtesy of the Shed Open Call

“The Jones Part 3” (2018), sculpted eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) with steel, 78 ½ x 180 x 26 ¾ inches. Private collection

Detail of “The Jones Part 3” (2018), sculpted eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) with steel, 78 ½ x 180 x 26 ¾ inches. Private collection

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