American Sculptor, Photographer, and Painter
New York, NY
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Summary of David Hare
An American artist adopted by the exiled French Surrealists during World War II, David Hare created photographs, sculptures, paintings, and collages that probed the depths of the human psyche and condition. Eventually steel and bronze became his preferred materials as he created hybrid forms that came from dreams and memories and that evoke uncanny feelings in the viewer. Immersed in Surrealist philosophy but friends with the burgeoning Abstract Expressionists, Hare's sculpture is unique in its concreteness; not a representation of a dream exactly or an abstract symbol, Hare's sculptures seem to take on a life of their own.
Perhaps because he straddled two movements and split much of his time between the United States and Paris, Hare's work doesn't fit neatly into any one category. His overriding creative guidance was that, in his words, "a work of art breaks up reality and recombines it in such a manner as to enlarge our understanding of a total life." Though successful during his life, Hare was not much of a self-promoter and his work is not widely known today. His commitment to Surrealist explorations of human desire, death, and love, even after such subjects fell out of favor, is a testament to the idea that throughout time artists have created art from probing their own psychic spaces and memories.
- Hare's metal sculptures follow in the line of Surrealist biomorphic sculpture, which uses abstract shapes and forms to create organic compositions that evoke various emotional associations. Though not exactly like using found objects, Hare's use of familiar shapes, often taken from nature, is a form of automatic process that invites randomness and intuition over reason and predetermination.
- Hare used fantastical imagery and mysterious forms to engage the viewer. By creating hybrid figures that at once seem familiar but not quite recognizable, Hare taps into the viewer's imagination, allowing them the freedom to explore their own emotions, desires, and memories in relation to the forms in order to create their own dreams and stories.
- While primarily known as a sculptor, Hare explored Surrealist creative processes in an array of mediums that made him unique among his New York peers. Manipulating negatives, employing automatic drawing and free association, Hare embraced Surrealism's non-traditional methods that downplayed the role of artistic genius.
Biography of David Hare
David Hare was born on March 10, 1917, in New York City into an affluent family. Hare's mother, Elizabeth Sage Goodwin, called Betty, was a renowned art collector from a wealthy family active in avant-garde art circles and a friend to artists, including Constantin Brâncuși and Marcel Duchamp. In 1913, she was among the patrons of the famed Armory Show that featured advanced European modern art to a large American audience. Hare's uncle, Philip Goodwin, was a trustee and the original architect of the Museum of Modern Art. His father, Meredith Hare, was a prominent corporate attorney, who supported all of his wife's activities. Betty was a generous benefactress of social issues, museums, and individual artists. As a result, Hare was exposed to art early in life and grew up in privileged circles of New York and Washington D. C.
Important Art by David Hare
This photograph is an example of David Hare's early experimentation with photography and notably with the technique of heatage, or brulage, developed by Surrealist Raoul Ubac. It consists of heating up or melting parts of the photographic negative during the development process, which causes the negative to ripple and distort. The result is a random deformation of the image. The chance-like nature of the technique appealed to the Surrealists and was comparable to other favored techniques like automatic drawing.
In this photograph, only the contour of a naked female body remains. The anatomical details have been replaced with alternating black and white masses. While the pattern is abstract and devised by chance manipulation, the effect conjures burnt flesh. The lack of facial features further accentuates the strangeness of this woman.
For his photographs, Hare usually chose female nudes and transformed them, playing with ideas of eroticism and censorship. The suggestive pose of the figure contrasts sharply with the metamorphosed body, creating a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort in the viewer. Art historian Phil Taylor explains that Ubac and Hare both use heatage in order to negate "the capacity of the photographic matrix to reproduce its original referents." Instead of reproducing an objective, or realistic, scene, Hare disrupts photography's illustrative powers to create something new.
In the context of the second World War, this technique takes on a subversive and political cast. The disintegrating figure is associated with a body mutilated by the violence of war. Gilbert states, "Hare's images opposed the aim of government censorship to control and sanitize the visual experience of war." He adds, "Hare's technical assault on the medium is itself significant and reflects a radical effort to subvert the documentary status and truth value of the official media's photographic reportage." In embracing Surrealist techniques, Hare did not shy away from the radical and, at times, revolutionary underpinnings of the avant-garde group.
Hare created this artwork in response to the gallerist Julien Levy who decided to curate a show about chess, a board game that he and many of his artist friends like Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst loved playing. Levy had designed his own set and asked 32 artists to contribute to his show that opened in the winter of 1944. Hare exhibited the plaster original of Magician's Game that he would cast in bronze in 1946.
The sculpture is a combination of shapes that resemble both animate and inanimate objects and suggests a slightly reclined figure sitting at a desk or game table. An egg-shaped object dangles in one of the desk's compartments, and from the other a stick emerges and from which comb-shaped form hangs. The reclining shape pierces the surface of the desk, suspended in the void by wires and, when pushed, quivers slightly and counterbalances the composition. This figure extends and connects itself under the desk with what appears to be a pointed tail.
Art Historian Mona Hadler describes this sculpture as epitomizing the Surrealist process of "free association of disparate ideas." Indeed, Hare combines many objects and shapes and creates a strange figure that seems to float in space. The figure is a hybrid entity, somewhere between a living creature and an inanimate object. It has no human attributes, except maybe the chest, but at the same time, it is clearly seated at a desk surrounded by human objects. Further the unrecognizable nature of the "game" adds another layer of mystery that draws in the viewer. The viewer is led to create the game in their own mind. Hadler points out that Hare has always wanted the viewer to actively participate, even in the act of literally moving the work. She explains, "The complexity and multiplicity of imagery of Hare's sculpture force an active process of viewing." The tensions that Hare's sculpture creates - animate/inanimate, stabile/mobile, seen/unseen, reality/fantasy - keep the viewers engaged.
This sculpture is part of a series that Hare created in the 1950s and that integrated elements of the natural landscape. The artist believed that art should have some relation to the physical world and not be entirely abstract. This work consists of a sun-like form at the top held by steel rods over a rock. There are also two other round forms between the sun and the rock that could represent a moon and a star. The vertical straight fragments of steel evoke lines of falling rain.
When asked in the 1960s by the Albright Knox Museum "Why would you sculpt a sunrise?" the artist answered that the main point "was first to make a sculpture from a subject which seemed highly unlikely as a sculptural material, the interest being in this being the difficulty of the problem and also its newness." Like his colleague David Smith, Hare appropriated a traditional subject of painting, but by welding the picture, he was able to make "drawings in space" and to create open and airy sculpture. Hare further explained about this work, "I wanted to take a picture of [the planet] before it disappeared." However, the artist also wanted to create a piece "that could be seen as abstract or as figurative," making this very tension the work of art itself.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on David Hare
- David Hare: American Surrealist. January 8-31, 2015By Alan Wolfsy Fine Arts
- David Hare: Cronus, elephants, flying heads : [exhibition] November 18-December 16, 1983, University Art Gallery, State University of New York at BinghamtonBy University Art Gallery, State University of New York at Binghamton
- Shaman's Fire: The Late Paintings of David Hare, 1998By Greenville County Museum of Art
- Surrealist painters and poets: an anthology, 2001Edited by Mary Ann Caws
- David Hare: A Magician's Game in ContextOur PickBy Mona Hadler / Art Journal / Vol. 47, no. 3, 1988
- David Hare, Surrealism, and the ComicsBy Mona Hadler / The Space Between: Literature and Culture / December 2011
- David Hare, Sculptor and Photographer, Dies at 75Our PickBy Michael Kimmelman / The New York Times / December 25, 1992
- Shadows of the Colonial: David Hare, empathetic perception, and ethnographic Surrealism in the 1940sBy Claudia Mesch / South Central Review / Vol 32, no. 1, Spring 2015
- Review/Art: A Love Affair With SurrealismBy Holland Cotter / The New York Times / January 14, 1994