Friday, June 22, 2007

More Hansen

Hansen at work on the Hinsdale memorial

I can't help myself,
I'm obsessed with J.W. Hansen

Because I think he really was
a kind of visionary, prophetic character.

I didn't read anything about his going to art school
or working in the studio of an established sculptor -
nor have I found any mention of his work
being collected by art museums.

Could we call him ...
an "outsider artist "???

Here's the above war memorial.
still in the center of Hinsdale.

And it's just a bit weird.

Was he a fan of Mestrovic ?
And what is the gender of this warrior ?
(there seem to be some mixed signals here)

Here's his monument to the Wright Brothers.

He's really got this optimism,
this "America-I-Can" thing down cold.

The spirit of the white ribbons of highways,
and the great skyscrapers

and, of course, the great Boulder Dam.

Above is one of the concrete reliefs
he designed for that dam
(before he got the commission for the cherubim)

very high energy,
and a fine, young, American woman.

But what about those ugly men ?
They look like Mestrovic's Indians in Grant Park.

Here's his portrait of Joseph Medill
(with copies at the Tribune Tower,
Northwestern School of Journalism,
and McCormick's museum at Cantigny)

This is the severity and sincerity
of early American portraiture -
prior to the hegemony of the more naturalistic
Beaux-Arts school of Paris.

This is a fine portrait of a boy

And this portrait doesn't leave much doubt
concerning the profession of the client
(he was an attorney)

This is the figure
he was hired to make
to replace the one destroyed on the top
of the Yorktown Victory Monument.

(and for a guy who remains completely outside
the world of American art museums,
he certainly did seem to get
commissions that were
right at the heart of the
American mythic experience)

And couldn't this figure of "Liberty"
(at least below the neck)
serve as the body of the Virgin
atop a Catholic church ?

This monument to his countryman,
Leif Eriksen,
once stood at the southern edge
of Grant Park.

(but I'm doubting that it's still there)

It's ugly -- but I don't think
it's any worse than Polasek's
Masaryk memorial on University of Chicago Midway.

Here's sample of text
from his 1927 book,
"Chien-Mi-Lo : a satirical prose fantasy with interpretative sculpture"

For me,
this kind of writing is utterly incomprehensible
(but then, I have difficulty reading the
"Book of Mormon" as well)

Here's one of the
"interpretive sculptures"
from that book

This is a monument
in Minneapolis

and this is another one of
his strange collectibles.
The figure was cast in gold.

So what can we make of this guy ?
Does he belong in art museums ?
Did he have some kind of
spiritual connection to the
"Angels In America"

I think so.


Blogger psanders said...

Beautiful work! Thanks for posting it.

July 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I were extremely intrigued by the star map at the foot of his sculpture at Hoover Dam. Do you know anything about that?

July 11, 2007  
Blogger velotrain said...

I'm the grandson of Oskar, currently studying sculpture at MassArt in Boston - at age 64. Oskar had a grand ego and a fondness for telling stories, so my father never had any hard information about Oscar's younger years in Norway. We're fairly certain that he was a seaman of some sort, but we have no details. Regarding the star map, I found this site today, but can't vouch for it.

Note to blog owner - you're capturing comment times, but they're rather meaningless since you don't have the date.

June 02, 2011  

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