Gallery  October 11, 2018  Megan D Robinson

Embellishing Historical Monuments: Hew Locke's "Patriots"

Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, J. Marion Sims, Central Park (detail), 2018, c-type photograph with mixed media

Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, J. Marion Sims, Central Park, 2018, c-type photograph with mixed media

British multimedia artist Hew Locke’s exhibition Patriots, now on view at New York's P.P.O.W, investigates how public statuary influences national identity and attitudes about history. Locke photographs public statues and embellishes the photographs, using culturally significant adornments to create a more complete conversation about the history these statues represent. Patriots focuses on a number of contentious US public sculptures, including George Washington, Peter Stuyvesant and Christopher Columbus. 

The statues are adorned with objects and art connected to frequently unacknowledged cultures intertwined with these historical figures. Cowrie shells, silver dollars, and illustrations of tortured slaves by William Blake all add layers of context. In Washington, Federal Hall (2018), a statue of George Washington is decorated with paraphernalia associated with African culture and the slave trade. This indelibly marks Washington as a slaveholder, a fact which is often ignored or glossed over in historical representations.

Hew Locke, Washington, Federal Hall, 2018
Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, Washington, Federal Hall, 2018, c-type photograph with mixed media

Hew Locke, Confederate States of America Loan 6, 2018
Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, Confederate States of America Loan 6, 2018, acrylic ink and acrylic pen on antique share certificates

Hew Locke, Stuyvesant, Jersey City, 2018
Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, Stuyvesant, Jersey City, 2018, c-type photograph with mixed media

Hew Locke, Confederate States of America Loan 4, 2018
Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W, New York

Hew Locke, Confederate States of America Loan 4, 2018, acrylic ink and acrylic pen on antique share certificates

A nine-foot replica of a refugee boat, embellished and installed in the back room of the gallery, explores the lasting effects of Colonialism. A series of works on paper are also included in the exhibition. Song of the South features acrylic pen and ink drawings on authentic Confederate loan shares. The drawings of African American drummers and former slaves juxtaposed on Confederate money comment on the real source of the South’s wealth, and questions the meaning of patriotism. Patriots offers new perspectives on historical figures, acknowledging the complicated history, multifaceted morality and socially encouraged racism behind people we consider heroes.

Born in Edinburgh, the oldest son of Guyanese sculptor Donald Locke and British painter Leila Locke, Locke grew up in Guyana, before moving back to Britain for school. He has a B.F.A (1988) from Falmouth University, and an M.A. in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art (1994). Locke lives and works in London, and has exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the US. His work is in permanent collections in numerous prestigious museums.

Patriots is on view at P.P.O.W. Gallery until November 10th.

About the Author

Megan D Robinson

Megan D Robinson writes for Art & Object and the Iowa Source.