Salon Paintings in association with The Hepworth Wakefield and Kistefos Museum, Norway, will feature selected works from Anderson’s celebrated Barbershop series, which depict the interiors of traditional men’s hairdressers and evoke a profound sense of history, memory, and place.
Although he has been making art for the past 25 years, Anderson first painted a barbershop scene in 2006 after a visit to a local barbershop. In an interview, he explained: “When I first saw the space, it was more about the mirrors. I walked in. It was quite still. Guys were waiting. People were cutting hair. Then you’d turn around 90 degrees, with two mirrors behind you. It’s an odd atmosphere to work in. To have so much reflection. To see yourself constantly.”
Anderson photographed the salon and used his images as the basis for a series of brightly coloured, semi-abstract works featuring the typical barbershop paraphernalia, including the distinctive chairs, bottles, machines, large mirrors and posters. Indeed, the barbershop would become a recurring theme of his work, which he has regularly visited for the past 15 years. The images he finds on barbershop walls fascinate him: “Hairstyles, of course, but also football teams, newspaper articles. It gave another twist somehow.”
Among the key aspects – indeed pleasures – of visiting a hair salon, are the things that may be overheard, as Anderson notes: “A lot has been said about the conversations that go on in barbershops,” His incorporation of the posters on the barbershop walls provides another “way of bringing these conversations into the paintings.” Moreover, the colours and aesthetic of the salons offer their Caribbean customers a connection back to their homelands.
The exhibition presents an opportunity to enjoy the most comprehensive presentation of the Barbershop series to date, from the first painting and initial studio drawings made in 2006 to a new large-scale drawing and a painting begun in 2022, the largest and final works in the series. The exhibition will also include a display of Anderson’s sketches to give a tangible sense of his creative process.
Also on display will be some of Anderson’s most political works, such as Is it OK to be Black? (2016) includes depictions of two of the most significant figures in the American Civil Rights movement, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The title refers to a mishearing of the classic barber’s question, ‘Is it OK at the back?’.
Commenting on the exhibition, Hurvin Anderson said: “The Barbershop is a subject that I have returned to throughout my career, as a site that was a point of connection to Caribbean culture. In repeating the image, deconstructing it and putting it back together again, the series has also become a meditative exploration of painting itself.”
Liz Gilmore, Director of Hastings Contemporary, said: “Turner Prize-nominated artist Hurvin Anderson is one of the most prominent British painters working today and a great influence on the current generation of artists. The arrival of his Barbershop paintings in Hastings – an iconic series of work spanning almost 20 years of his practice – is hugely exciting for Hastings Contemporary and so appropriate, given our position in the heart of the Old Town. The exhibition reflects our passion and commitment to showcasing the best of British historical and contemporary art. We thank Hurvin for his generous insights and thinking in developing this touring exhibition.”
A new book, edited by Eleanor Clayton and Isabella Maidment and published by The Hepworth Wakefield, will accompany the exhibition.
Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings is organised by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with Hastings Contemporary and Kistefos Museum, Norway. Before it arrived at Hastings Contemporary on 18 November, the exhibition opened at The Hepworth Wakefield on 26 May 2023 and will next travel to Kistefos in Norway (April – October 2024).
Hurvin Anderson: Salon Paintings is supported by Richard and Debbi Burston, Clore Wyndham, Thomas Dane Gallery and Michael Werner Gallery.
18 November 2023 – 3 March 2024 Hastings Contemporary proudly hosts a significant show of Hurvin Anderson’s (b.1965) paintings and drawings, including examples of his latest work.