Born in Minnesota, Hanson (1925 – 1996) came to prominence as a figurative artist in the 1960s, with his hyperrealistic lifecast sculptures of everyday Americans, in a style akin to the Pop Art movement. By making ordinary people the focus of his work, Hanson indirectly discloses and subverts the fascination with celebrities, while using the complicity with the gallery visitors to raise larger questions about social typologies and voyeurism. In his forty-year career, the American artist looked at the banalities and routines of the anonymous and the marginal, and he performed a displacement of these figures from the flow of everyday life into the museum space, with irony and compassion.

Duane Hanson. Young Shopper, Man on a Bench, Lady with Shopping Bags

Duane Hanson. Young Shopper, Man on a Bench, Lady with Shopping Bags.

Shoppers loaded with bags, captured in unflattering body postures, overweight tourists gazing dully into imaginary horizons, working – class figures in worn – out uniforms take the center stage through these resin and fiberglass casts, executed in great detail. The sculptures are often complemented by objects and accessories which further enhance their uncanny lifelike appearance. Man with Hand Cart (1975), Housepainter (1984/1988) and Policeman (1992/1993) are just a few of the sculptures which will feature in the Serpentine exhibition.


Duane Hanson, Young Shopper, 1973

Hanson’s hyperrealistic sculptures act as a commentary on the way social stereotypes can generate a congealed image of a person, presenting typologies, rather than individuals. However, they seem to constantly move in the fragile space between social stereotypes and a critique of that very practice, because of the interaction between them and the gallery visitors. Unbound by rules of appropriate social proximity and etiquette, people can approach the lifelike sculptures and stare, visually dissecting them and transgressing boundaries otherwise respected in the everyday life. The voyeuristic character of this practice is, however, regulated by the scopic space of the gallery, where each visitor can in turn be observed by others, and become an object of scrutiny, similarly to the exhibits themselves.

Like totemic figures of the contemporary times, Hanson’s sculptures have the power of absorbing the visitors in their world, questioning the lines between reality and fiction.

Duane Hanson, Self Portrait with Model, 1979. Courtesy of the Estate of Duane Hanson and Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Alan Ginsburg.


Duane Hanson, Queenie II, 1988. Life-size

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