Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s

Feb 11–Jun 3, 2012

David Hammons (American, b. 1943)
How Ya Like Me Now? 1988
Tin, plywood, sledgehammers, Lucky Strike cigarette wrapper, and American flag, Glenstone
Pale blond hair and blue eyes alter Reverend Jesse Jackson’s (American, b. 1941) recognizable features, resulting in a hybrid face that is disquieting and unclassifiable. At the bottom of Jackson’s image, David Hammons has scrawled rap lyrics by iconic eighties rapper Kool Moe Dee (Mohandas Dewese; American, b. 1962). Framing the famous African American civil rights leader, an icon of black political solidarity, with a piece of hip-hop graffiti, Hammons comments on the disconnect between the civil rights generation and the emerging hip-hop generation, questioning the desire of black leaders to “assimilate” into the overwhelmingly white US government. Commissioned as a public artwork by the Washington Project for the Arts, the painting was originally installed on a billboard in Washington, DC, near the National Portrait Gallery. After local African American youths attacked the piece with sledgehammers, because they thought the work was the result of racism, it was removed from its outdoor setting and brought into a traditional gallery. Hammons incorporated this incident into the work’s subsequent display, adding the row of upside-down hammers that now separates the work from the viewer.