Gallery, Jorgensen Auditorium, University of Connecticut, 1970

A note on David Hayes

It is not from any ordinary depths that the art of David Hayes presents itself. Rather, his work seems to come, and profoundly, from surfaces, the surfaces of his life perhaps as much as of the earth around him. There are recesses to surfaces as well, of course, and it is in these that the finds the potentials of his art.

This is the sculpture of a hard man. Although never austere, the firmness of everything hits you immediately: everything is full-blown, hard. There is simply nothing that is allowed to be cute - and how pleasing that fact is in itself in a country so greedy for cuteness these days in its op/pop/slop arts, its news, its scene etc.

Why David Hayes appears so happily clear of such (and so clearly happy) in almost all his work is a good question (even his woodcuts for the book, Varmint Q., which are often very funny, never slip into the buffoonery/cartoonery of so much modern illustration). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he is a religious man (it is still the custom at his house to say Grace at the table) - surely there is some spiritual conviction, admittedly hard to define, that seems to support the whole unshakeable tone of his work. One could not imagine him finding it easy to fly off on the latest technical distraction. He has roots, and he moves slowly.

In part because of this strength, there is a look of the "classic" in his work, and while classic has nothing to do with age, there is even a sense of antiquity - that these are figures out of another time, even millennia previous, when the world was a more convinced, and convincing, place: the pile-on effect for instance of Two Blue Forms (1966) - ancient bodies, ancient shields - the blunt balance of Chimera #3 (1968) as if it could have been ridden into battle by some little king of Sumer, or the Fiddler Crab (1968), as if emerged, somehow in steel, from Pleistocene.

But these are not figures from any other time, or any other world, they are our own, and there is even something frightening, stark, in them, that we cannot honestly project away from us, as somehow not part of our own rather terrifying earth. Two Interlocking Forms (1968), for instance, interlock with a thud that is bonecrushing to behold, in spite of the actual grace and achievement of its standing. Why is this? Perhaps because Hayes is able to produce in all these dark and heavy contours a sense of finality, a remarkable sense of certainty - as if nothing here could be budged or moved. Everything finished and at rest, a kind of thickness over it all, like nothing new has happened for thousands of years, a stasis.

Even in the more colorful schemes of his ceramics and rugs this seems true. The colors always come in grand immutable globs or chunks, often in design quite similar to the steel sculptures, whose firmness and solidity they immediately share. And their subtlety too is in their surfaces, in the brief recesses and hollows that rise, it would appear, from some forceful inability to flow smoothly into each other. Resistance is what they are about, for they touch, and their colors are very satisfying, but they do not ever deliberately connect, piece by piece, as if there were some blood, some on-going power in their existence.

Yet isn't it strange that there is no temptation, as one looks at all this immobility, to give it a push! To try to move what is so gracefully immovable! One imagines how exceptional the resources of an artist must be for this condition to be so, that in such a way the art itself moves us, and so very effectively.

Charles Boer
Assistant Professor of English
The University of Connecticut