Duane Hanson's Sculptures of American Everyday Life

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 13 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Viola Elisabeth RÜHSE, Danube University Krems, Austria
Duane Hanson (1925-1996) is well-known for his hyperrealistic life-size sculptures. His main subjects are the common, everyday Americans from the middle classes. Hanson paid particular attention to laborers and the elderly that are often overlooked. In his late years, he focused also on racism and poverty. He favoured especially polyester resin and fiberglass as materials for his true-to-life sculptures. Hanson copied every small detail of his selected models and completed the finished sculptures with real clothes and consumer goods as accessories of everyday life (e.g. a FILA t-shirt, Coca-Cola bottles, a chocolate sundae, a copy of the magazine “Soap Opera Digest”).

Hanson’s interest for daily life is influenced by Pop Art. Furthermore, he is particularly interested in sociology. He transforms not only daily consumer goods that seems to be banal and trivial into iconographic material, but he also shows a critical attitude towards consumer culture and the marginalisation of certain groups. He draws attention to the solitude, despair and frustration of the middle class. Thus, the impersonality and alienation of modern American life is visualized in a vivid and powerful way. Hanson’s wants to show provocatively that art does not have to be “on a pedestal, beautiful, far removed from everyday living”. As he wrote in 1982, Hanson wants to support a social change “by making the viewer become aware of something in life that was always there, but was unnoticed”.

In my paper, I would like to analyse the sociological aspects in Hanson’s aesthetics from the perspective of visual culture. Special consideration will be given to Hanson’s attention towards everyday life that is fundamental for his realistic sculptures and his humanist and democratic attitude.