Wiley trickster and conceptual artist David Hammons has been zinging us for a number of years with his exceptionally brilliant conceptual art, which among other things, touches on race, class and identity in America. Now pushing 70, this enigmatic African-American artist once sold snowballs in a snowstorm in NYC in 1983, and depicted Jessie Jackson as a blond haired-blue eyed ideal for the National Portrait Gallery in a piece titled “How You Like Me Now.” Hammons came to mind recently specifically for his installation “In The Hood,” above, because it relates to the killing of 17-year-old, 140-lb Trayvon Martin by 23-year-old, 250-lb George Zimmerman last month. Geraldo Rivera’s nonsensical take on the matter needs to be G-checked as well.
“In The Hood” was made in 1993, two years before Trayvon Martin was born. Before Hammons made this piece, the Champion-made hoodie had been in America for about 60 years, worn by blue collar folks as a garment to keep warm. When Trayvon was at the tender age of 7, the hoodie was shown in 2002 exhibit at The Bronx Museum of Art’s “One Planet Under A Groove” show. By that point, hip-hop had embraced the hoodie as a fashion staple, thanks to designers like Tommy Hilfiger who quadrupled retail sales of this garment to heads enamored with the designer. Prior to that, the hoodie was popularized by Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky (1979), released around the same time hip-hop was being born in The Bronx.
Nearly 2000 years ago, during the High and Low Middle Ages, the hoodie was worn by religious fanatics in Northern Europe as a cowl. Filmmaker and xenophobe D.W. Griffith championed the hood in his polarizing film The Birth Of A Nation (1915) credited with reviving the KKK. The hood is deep and rich with history: its wearers are perceived as both menace and mystery.