Michael Gasser - Review of Artist Glenn Bruce Hamm

I recently attended a showing by Glenn Bruce Hamm -
what made this showing most intriguing was that the artist had died over 20 years ago.
The showing was put together by his son in attempt to sell some of his fatherís work which was cluttering his basement.

Hamm began working as an artist in the early 1950s.
He started out drawing and painting nudes in a classical style and also taught nude drawing classes at VCU.
Later in his career he began exploring more contemporary mediums and subject matter.
He did explorations into perspective and color as well as screen printing and collage work.
He was most notably inspired by Ray Bradbury novels which include Fahrenheit 451 and Dandelion Wine and the
Ingman Bergman film The Seventh Seal.

The showing was quite refreshing compared to the many other galleries I attended that evening.
It seemed to lack the pretense and haughty air of the other galleries packed with yuppies drinking wine.
Hammís style may have not been the most original but his subject matter was inviting.
I especially enjoyed the small little cartoon books displayed,
each filled with little gems of knowledge pertaining to life that he managed to put into word.
He screened mainly with black and white inks removing most depth from the piece and
bringing the viewer in much closer in attempt to see what distance could not reveal.
Here is where you see the influence of Bergmanís black and white film come into play.

His nudes were often photographic in quality with the models facing odd directions or placed amongst
strange scenery forcing the viewer to create their own interpretation of the piece.
His exploration into perspective was reminiscent of Escherís upside down stairs,
yet done with much more vibrant color and active subject matter.

At the very end of his career I feel he took a turn for the worse with pieces exploring hallucinogenic-like visions.
Perhaps this was sign of the time period and the drugs abused during it.
These works left me feeling dry, like the artist was making art for a cheesy movie set.
The emotion seemed to be forced and uninspired.

Hamm died in 1979 of Lou Gehrigís disease, perhaps before his time had come.
But, the small piece of his life that was art remains today giving us an insight into the small genius.
Hamm is no artist worthy of the attention received by Van Gogh after his death, but his work is not to be ignored.

Overall the showing was great. It grabbed me in a way others could not.
The aspect of looking at art that otherwise would be hidden in someoneís basement was far more delighting than walking
into what sometimes almost feels like a sales pitch by an artist.
I had a chance to speak to Hammís son before I left and he gave me a very vague recollection of his father.
I am glad he at least remembered his artwork.


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"Painting the Nude" by Glenn Hamm at Amazon.com

Glenn Bruce Hamm at RVA Magazine

Glenn B Hamm at Wikipedia