The Melt Goes on Forever directed by Judd Tully and Harold Crooks

Museum of Modern Art and Fordham University

Seven years in the making, directed by Judd Tully and Harold Crooks, The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons, takes its namesake from a snowball sculpture the artist, David Hammons sold on the streets of New York one wintery day in 1983, in a Bliz-aard Ball Sale, that would serve as a metaphor in the depiction of Hammons’ unconventional, whimsical career, spanning generations through to today.  

Where biopic films often tend toward hagiography, Tully and Crooks have crafted a kind of hide-and-seek adventure film, grafted onto a documentary, that engages the viewer to chase down the melting snowball which by the end of the film transforms into a priceless, maddeningly unattainable work of art. Sorry for the non-spoiler alert.

David Hammons rose to global art world prominence through his participation in the 1992 edition of Dokumenta IX in Kassel, Germany. Alongside the Venice Biennial, the quinquennial Dokumenta — because if biennial is good, quinquennial must be twice as good — has launched the careers of many an art world rising star. And it seems at 81, Hammons’ star is still rising.

It is fitting that Dokumenta, taking place only once every five years, an art world event defined more by its cultivated absence from the seemingly endless cycle of annual and even seasonal art fairs, would serve as the platform to call attention to an artist whose own cultivated absence has become his calling card.

Indeed, only a rarified few even know where the illusive artist lives today, much less how to reach him. The more Hammons ignores the art world, the more top movers and shakers want a piece of him. Even if that piece is the ephemeral, conceptual idea of a snowball that once existed, exchanged for currency, placed in the kitchen freezer of a curious passerby, only to accrue more and more, and then staggeringly more value in the minds of would be collectors. 

In this regard, Hammons’ conceptual play on the imagination resonates with Marcel Duchamp’s 50 cc of Paris Air (an empty ampoule from a pharmacist in Paris), and later, Yves Klein’s documentation of ownership of empty space (the Immaterial Zone). These ephemeral works of art offered a conceptual counterpoint to the art world reliance on tangible material, paintings, and sculptures.  In a serendipitous moment, the passerby who on a whim purchased Hammons’ elusive snowball and placed it in her mother’s freezer turned out to be today’s gallery owner, Anna Kustera, who also has a cameo in the film.

David Hammons on 125th Street, 1981 © Michael Blackwood
Blizzard Ball animation still, 2022 © Tynesha Foreman.
David Hammons creating basketball drawing in a hallway ©Alex Harsley-4th Street Photo Gallery
Hammons Sculpture “How You Like Me Now_” Washington DC, 1989. ©Phillip Brookman
David Hammons in Los Angeles, 1969. ©Third World Newsreel
David Hammons in his Harlem Studio, 1981 ©Michael Blackwood.

Co-published by MintheArtworld

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