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Tom Hunter: Life and Death in Hackney

February 7 – August 7, 2016
East Building, Concourse Elevator Lobby, CLA-98

Tom Hunter, The Way Home, 2000, silver dye bleach print, National Gallery of Art, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, 2014.150.10. 

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: This installation features five photographs by British artist Tom Hunter from the series Life and Death in Hackney, in which he explores the cultural resonances of iconic Victorian paintings by reworking their compositions in a contemporary setting. Hackney, where the artist lives in northeast London, was historically a working-class neighborhood before gentrifying in recent years. In the 1990s, raves and other underground gatherings were staged in its abandoned warehouses. Hunter captures the area’s decay and wildness, seen in the derelict buildings, overgrown weeds and wildflowers, and scenes that hint at the district’s nightlife.

In each photograph, Hunter chooses a poignant Victorian precedent and translates its melancholic mood to the post-industrial landscape of his neighborhood, using local inhabitants as his models. Like the Pre-Raphaelite painters who came before, Hunter also focuses on the marginal and disempowered. By adding the weight of historical allusion to his compositions, Hunter imparts a dignity to his often overlooked subjects, transforming the disaffected youth of contemporary London into his heroes and heroines.

Organization: Organized by National Gallery of Art, Washington