Museum  January 21, 2020

“Creation Myths” Examines History, Slavery, and American Identity

© Hugh Hayden, Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Hugh Hayden, America (detail), 2018.

PRINCETON, N.J. – Artist Hugh Hayden explores history, slavery and the creation of the America we know today through a series of site-responsive installations at Art@Bainbridge, the Princeton University Art Museum’s gallery space in downtown Princeton featuring the work of emerging contemporary artists. Challenging issues of home, craft and the politics of materials, Hayden reimagines the domestic spaces of Bainbridge House, which dates to 1766, through meticulously constructed surrealistic sculptures.

Titled Creation Myths, the installation responds to the history of Bainbridge House by creating distinct but interconnected domestic spaces. In the “kitchen,” iron skillets fused with casts of African masks consider the enslaved cooks who helped create American cuisine; in the “study,” a claw-machine arcade game filled with cotton bolls references the quintessential act of slave labor; in the “dining room,” an oak table covered in large-scale thorns evokes the unattainability of the American Dream. Together, these spaces craft a narrative – part fiction, part history – that evokes themes of cuisine, leisure and education and explores the intersections of these themes with slavery’s complex legacy.

Hayden sources much of his lumber from sources imbued with meaning, including mesquite he hand-harvested on the U.S.-Mexico border and Christmas trees salvaged from Park Avenue trash bins.

Creation Myths, the second installation at Art@Bainbridge since it launched last year, will be on view from Jan. 18-June 7, 2020. The installation is curated by Alex Bacon, curatorial associate, with Mitra Abbaspour, Haskell curator of modern and contemporary art.

© Hugh Hayden, Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Hugh Hayden, America, 2018.

“Hugh Hayden’s fantastical work creates a narrative that confronts and complicates ideas of history, mythology and reality,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director. “In doing so, it continues to investigate the domestic in one of the most historic buildings in Princeton, one that was itself built by a slaveholding family.”

Based in New York, Hayden (born 1983, Dallas, Texas) received his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University and Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University. He has completed residencies at the Abrons Art Center and Glenfiddich, and his work has been featured in several exhibitions in the U.S. and in Europe, including as one of the inaugural-year commissions at The Shed in New York’s Hudson Yards.

Hayden will join Princeton Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, who specializes in African and African Diasporic art history and theory, for a conversation about Creation Myths on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. in 50 McCosh Hall, followed by a reception at the Museum.

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