The similarity of this Rembrandt being protected from heavy rain leaking into a bucket right in front of it to David Hammons’ abstract paintings covered by used street tarps is immediate and gratifying to everyone who is familiar with this work.
Hammons showed these works for the first time at L&M Arts’ townhouse gallery in Manhattan in 2011. Most of the tarps were opaque, with only corners and edges of the madcap AbEx paintings peeking out underneath. One of the biggest, though [above], was covered in cloudy, still-translucent plastic that allowed the painting to be seen through a fleeting, new landscape of light reflecting on the draped plastic surface.
I found the image of it above Frances Richard’s Artforum review. Richard considered the works in relation to the history of postwar painting, while the Gemäldegalerie’s installation at once reaches back to the Renaissance of Rembrandt and projects forward to the institutional failings in response to the global climate emergency.
Contemplating Grubbs’ anxiety during what should have been a pleasant visit to the Rembrandt Room renewed Richard’s conclusion:
“An almost-palpably rustling audience—though who would care enough about this scene to observe it, and yet be so removed?—breached the building’s hushed solidity to watch us (critic, guard, staff, artist, collectors, historians, etc.) act our pantomime of ‘judgment’ and ‘value.’ Walking away down Seventy-eighth Street, I thought,’This is all a David Hammons.'”
And so did I.