Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men at ICA Miami

Through April 17, 2022
Installation view: "Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men" at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Nov 30, 2021 – Apr 17, 2022. Photo: Zachary Balber.

“Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men” features a suite of monumental new works created for the occasion and debuting at ICA Miami. In his innovative work across mediums, Hayden creates anthropomorphic forms that explore our relationship with the natural world. Formally trained as an architect, Hayden deploys laborious processes—selecting, carving, fabricating—resulting in dynamic, surreal, and critical responses to personal experience and social and cultural issues. Renowned for his use of wood—taking disparate species and manipulating them to reveal complex histories and meanings—Hayden crafts intricate metaphors and meditations on experience and memory that question social dynamics and the ever-shifting ecosystem.

Featuring a series of new works that contend with personal and recent political themes, “Boogey Men” is bifurcated into two spaces that suggest suburban interior and exterior and which highlight the artist’s interest in socially producing spaces. A white carpet creates a dramatic cul de sac, which will grow dirty as visitors pass over it during the exhibition. At the center of this space is Boogey Man (2021), a monumental work in stainless steel. Depicting a police car draped in a white cover, this ambiguous, anthropomorphized form takes on a cartoonish, even childlike ghostly presence, while also evoking the ominous silhouette of a hooded Klansman, making a powerful statement on the role of police brutality in the United States.

A second room suggests an interior space, where the artist presents Roots (2021), a skeletal figure made of bald cypress trees, its surfaces proliferated with bifurcating branches. Among other references, the work cites a family tree: Hayden sourced the bald cypress trees, a species synonymous with the Gulf Coast and Southern states, from Louisiana, where his mother grew up and where he visited frequently in his youth. Hanging from the ceiling is Soul Food (2021), a cluster of copper-plated pots pans. The cacophony consists of 12 musician and instrument pairs each made up of a cast-iron skillet anthropomorphized with an African mask—as well as the artist’s own mouth and ears—and a copper pot fused to a brass instrument. The artist has long been preoccupied with traditional African artifacts and masks, anthropomorphized forms and traditions, and here these themes come together into a monumental jazz band, touching on the origins of American cuisine and music.

Hugh Hayden (b. 1983, Dallas) lives and works in New York. He holds an MFA from Columbia University, New York, and a bachelor of architecture from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey (2020), and White Columns, New York (2018). Hayden’s work is in the collections of the Princeton University Art Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

Special Exhibition / 3rd Floor

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