Duane Hanson
Category: Contemporary
Written by Kellie A. Hanna

I became interested in realistic sculpture from Duane Hanson, and I became interested in Duane Hanson after seeing "Bowery Derelicts" (1969-1970) in a book. The sculpture is housed in Germany at the Neue Gallery, and the closest I could get to the piece is from a book. Still, I found the sculpture captivating.

It's a life-sized piece, crafted in polyester and fiberglass, and is polychromed. It's a haunting depiction of three homeless men lying and sitting half-prone amid strewn garbage; each has his own bottle of alcohol. It demands the viewer's attention.

Hanson was born in Alexandria, Minnesota in 1925, and began working as a realist in his early teens. He once said of art, "I did all kinds of things...I got to the point where I said...so what? They were pretty statements that didn't amount to much. It was all too concerned with aesthetics...there was no attempt to communicate any deep feeling."

Hanson created his first figure in polyester resin and fiberglass, cast from a clay model, in 1967. He eventually decided to forgo modeling in clay and instead took a plastic impression directly from a live model.

He used his sculpture to express social commentary and force it on the viewer. His themes range from violence, to death and dying, to war, and those present in "Bowery Derelicts," alcoholism and social injustice.

Janitor, 1973
Polyester, fiberglass, mixed media
Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art

Milwaukee Art Museum,
Gift of Friends of Art

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