Hugh Hayden
Photo: William Jess Laird

Next Big Things: Hugh Hayden

The trained architect utilizes wood as his primary medium, including objects as varied as discarded tree trunks, rare indigenous timbers, or souvenir African sculpture

Hugh Hayden Photo: William Jess Laird

At first glance, Hugh Hayden’s creations may seem like everyday objects, but a closer inspection leaves the viewer bewildered with a headful of questions about the American Dream and meaning of race.

Sculptural Depth: Through intricate wood carving, he conceived America, a table similar to the one he grew up eating family meals around in Dallas yet reimagined with thorny formations made out of mesquite wood from Laredo, Texas. “Many find mesquite an unwanted and invasive tree,” he says. “I’m interested in wood being native but not having the right to belong.” Materiality also plays into his metalwork: “I’m buying African masks of questionable authenticity and then making copies through sandcasting,” he says. “There’s a loss of information, and that’s an analogy to the diaspora the more it becomes a facsimile.”


America, 2018 Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

Breakout moment: A November show at Lisson Gallery in East Hampton previewed a new body of work depicting fiery fences, where flames were sculpted from wood.

Up next: In December, New York–based Hayden will be at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, near Aspen, where he plans to work on ceramics during a 21-day residency.

Installation view of Hugh Hayden: American Food at Lisson Gallery London, 2020 Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

“Through highly wrought, beautifully articulated wood and cast-iron sculptures he considers, among other things, the ties between the history of Black Americans to the land and to food with a deeply poetic sensibility.”

Jeremy Strick, director, Nasher Sculpture Center

Jazz 1, 2019 Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2020 Winter Issue under the headline “Next Big Things.” Subscribe to the magazine.

Click here to see the full list of “Next Big Things.”   

Cover: Hugh Hayden
Photo: William Jess Laird


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