Hyperrealism in Duane Hanson ‘s sculptures

Sculpture of a man and a woman sitting at a table.
Sculpture of a man and a woman sitting at a table.

The style of hyperrealism is usually used by artists who paint paintings that are difficult to distinguish from photographs. But you can create images that are striking in their naturalism in sculpture. Duane Hanson (Dwayne Hanson) is one of the most famous hyperrealist sculptors. Having seen his work, you will not immediately distinguish it from a living person.

The years of Dwayne Hanson ‘s life are 1925-1996. Over a forty-year career, he created no less than 130 sculptures that depict American society from the 60s to the 80s. The master’s heroes were ordinary contemporaries – representatives of the middle class and lower strata of the population. These are ordinary workers, alcoholics, homeless people and women with children.

Realistic sculpture of a traveling man and woman.
Realistic sculpture of a traveling man and woman.
A man reading a newspaper.
A man reading a newspaper.

How did Duane Hanson work?

The sculptor created images from real people, achieving incredible similarities. He was able to raise the realism of his work to a new level after a trip to Germany, where he lived and worked for some time. In Europe, Hanson communicated with the sculptor Georgy Grigo, who worked with a new material at that time – plastic rubber. With its help, you can make casts of human faces and figures in great detail.

Children playing on the rug.
Children playing on the rug.

Over time, the sculptor switched to a more modern material – fiberglass using epoxy resin. The highly detailed figures were polished to perfection with meticulously sourced thrift store clothing, wigs, accessories and makeup. Hanson created both single and group sculptures. They are like a theatrical performance with the participation of living people.

Sculpture of a seated athlete.
Sculpture of a seated athlete.

Duane Hanson gained fame as an author of works with a social overtone. He often tried to draw attention to the most pressing problems of society at that time. His art addressed themes of drug addiction, illegal abortion, racial hatred, police brutality, the Vietnam War and motorcycle safety. In a later period, social issues fade into the background. The sculptor is more interested in typical representatives of his time – unremarkable faces snatched from the crowd.

Sunbathing woman in a hammock.
Sunbathing woman in a hammock.

Nowadays, exhibitions of Duane Hanson’s sculptures are regularly held in New York, London, Paris, Berlin and other countries. These exhibitions invariably attract attention, because visiting them is like visiting the United States in the 70s and 80s. This is the main value of hyperrealistic art.

Among modern masters working in this genre, it is worth mentioning the British Ron Mueck and the American Tom Eckert. The first one works with polyester resins, creating figures slightly smaller or larger in scale than in life. The second uses only soft linden wood and paint, achieving an incredible resemblance to a variety of things, even translucent silk fabrics.

Woman with bags in the subway.
Woman with bags in the subway.
A man painting the walls.
A man painting the walls.
Cowboy sculpture.
Cowboy sculpture.
Homeless woman.
Homeless woman.
Sculpture of a boy.
Sculpture of a boy.
Duane Hanson Sculpture of a policeman.
Sculpture of a policeman.
Duane Hanson Cleaning woman.
Cleaning woman.
Duane Hanson Grandfather sitting on a bench.
Grandfather sitting on a bench.
Duane Hanson A man watching TV in a chair.
A man watching TV in a chair.
Duane Hanson Sculpture of a doctor.
Sculpture of a doctor.
Duane Hanson Photographer's sculpture.
Photographer’s sculpture.
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