THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART sits adjacent to the Hudson River, a waterfront with a storied history that inspired “Day’s End,” a monumental, permanent public art project by David Hammons. Once home to meatpacking warehouses and commercial piers that served the shipping industry, the piers were reclaimed in the early 1970s becoming a hub where artists and the gay community gathered.

During this period, Gordon Matta-Clark famously cut openings into the abandoned Pier 52 shed, allowing light to flood through the dark structure. He called his creation “Day’s End” (1975). Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney Museum, has described the work as “a cathedral of light and water.”

Inspired by Matta-Clark’s intervention, Hammons envisioned an open structure located on the site of the original shed, a “ghost monument” reflecting its outlines and dimensions. Conceptual and abstract, the work is about the history of New York, its changing landscape, and artistic lineage. Commissioned by the Whitney Museum and developed in collaboration with the Hudson River Park Trust, plans for the new work were first revealed in October 2017 and last week the museum announced the project is officially underway.

The groundbreaking of “Day’s End” was celebrated on the third floor of the Whitney Museum, which offers expansive views of the waterfront and the site of public project on the Gansevoort Peninsula. The fete took place at sunset on Sept. 16, with Hammons attendance.

A number of other artists were there, too, according to the museum, including Derrick Adams, Jules Allen, Dawoud Bey, Torkwase Dyson, Awol Erizku, Maren Hassinger, Dave McKenzie, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, Tiona Nekkia McClodden (winner of the Whitney Biennial’s 2019 Bucksbaum Award), and Jason Moran, whose solo show just opened at the museum. Also present, were Whitney Museum officials, curators, and trustees; philanthropic donors; local elected officials; and Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

 


Whitney Museum of American Art officials, artist Lorna Simpson, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, and others, discuss the vision for David Hammons’s forthcoming public art work and the artistic history that inspired it. | Video by Whitney Museum

 

Rife with ceremony, the occasion featured a “water tango” by the fire department of New York City’s Marine Company 9. The water cannon display was followed by the premiere of “6 to 5, 5 to 6,” a new musical composition by Pulitzer Prize-winning bandleader Henry Threadgill. Organized by Adrienne Edwards, the museum’s curator of performance, the two-part work was created in response to the architecture and engineering of Hammons’s sculpture. A sextet performed the first part of the musical piece. The premiere of the second installment will coincide with the unveiling of “Day’s End.”

The public art project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2020. In advance of its debut, the museum is presenting “Around Day’s End: Downtown New York, 1970-1986,” a related exhibition recognizing Matta-Clark’s work. Drawn from the museum’s collection, the show will feature works by Matta-Clark and about 15 other artists active in New York during the 1970s and early 80s, including Bey, the photographer who has documented previous outdoor works and performances by Hammons, including “Bliz-aard Ball Sale I,” “Pissed Off,” and “Higher Goals,” all in 1983. A survey show of Chicago-based Bey’s work will also be on view at the museum in fall 2020.

With work on “Day’s End” moving forward, the Whitney Museum produced a video about the project. Hammons appears in the footage, riding in a boat on the Hudson River near the site of the forthcoming installation and reviewing scaled models of the project at the museum, but he doesn’t speak. Others discuss the project, including Weinberg, artist Lorna Simpson, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, and Scott Rothkopf, the museum’s deputy director for programs and chief curator.

“One of the things New York City desperately needs are monuments that reflect the city demographically, that reflect the city in its diversity,” Walker says in the video. “As I imagine it, it will be a somewhat luminous, invisible, but very present installation of steel and aluminum that allows us to look through it into the sky and across the river, but to also remember the pier.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Rendering of the proposed project, “Day’s End” by David Hammons, as seen from the Whitney Museum of American Art. | Courtesy Guy Nordenson and Associates

 

BOOKSHELF
The Whitney Museum of American Art plans a publication to document “Day’s End.” From the Museum of Modern Art, “Charles White: Black Pope” was published to coincide with the exhibition “Charles White—Leonardo da Vinci,” which was curated by David Hammons. Over the years, the artist’s work has been documented in a number of collectible catalogs. Published in 1991, “David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble” celebrates two decades of his practice. “L.A. Object & David Hammons Body Prints,” offers an historical overview of the artist’s practice and the Los Angeles assemblage movement of the 1960s and 70s. More recently, catalogs accompanied important exhibitions at Mnuchin Gallery in New York (“David Hammons: Five Decades”), a career survey billed as the first of its kind in 25 years, and the George Economou Collection in Athens (“David Hammons: Give Me a Moment”), the artist’s first major show in Greece, and first survey in Europe. A rare interview with Hammons conducted by art historian Kellie Jones appears in her book “EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art.”

 


From left, Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, with artist David Hammons, at Celebration of the Commencement of installation of David Hammons “Day’s End,” Sept. 16, 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy Whitney Museum

 


Presentation on the Hudson River by the Fire Department of New York City ’s Marine Company 9 and their fireboat the Fire Fighter II, at Celebration of the Commencement of installation of David Hammons “Day’s End,” Sept. 16, 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy Whitney Museum

 


David Hammons (b. 1943), Sketch for Day’s End, a proposed public art project. | Courtesy Whitney Museum

 


Rendering of proposed project, “Day’s End” by David Hammons, looking west from the terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art. | Courtesy Guy Nordenson and Associates.

 


Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and bandleader Henry Threadgill (b. 1944) performing on Sept. 16, 2019 in Susan and John Hess Family Theater at the Whitney Museum for the debut of the overture to his piece “6 to 5, 5 to 6,” a two-part work commissioned by the Whitney Museum on the occasion of David Hammons’s “Day’s End,” at Celebration of the Commencement of installation of David Hammons “Day’s End,” Sept. 16, 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy Whitney Museum

 


Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and bandleader Henry Threadgill (b. 1944) leads a sextet for the debut of the overture to his piece “6 to 5, 5 to 6,” a two-part work commissioned by the Whitney Museum on the occasion of David Hammons’s “Day’s End” on Sept. 16, 2019 in Susan and John Hess Family Theater at the Whitney Museum, at Celebration of the Commencement of installation of David Hammons” Day’s End,” Sept. 16, 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | Courtesy Whitney Museum

 


From left, Jane Crawford, head of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, with artist David Hammons, at Celebration of the Commencement of installation of David Hammons Day’s End, Sept. 16, 2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | Photo courtesy Whitney Museum

 


GORDON MATTA-CLARK, (1943-1978), “Day’s End (Pier 52), (Exterior with Ice),” 1975 (color photograph, 1029 x 794 mm.) | © Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, Artists Rights Society (ARS), N.Y.

 


Rendering of the proposed project, “Day’s End” by David Hammons, looking west from Gansevoort Peninsula. | Courtesy Guy Nordenson and Associates

 

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