Thomas Hammer's body of work includes ink paintings inspired by the loose strokes of post-war abstract expressionism and acrylic paintings which feature strict geometric forms. We caught up with him to hear about how he developed a unique tool to create a signature look, what caught his eye at the Whitney Biennial, and what he's doing in Vegas that's far from the strip.
Sugarlift will be exhibiting Thomas's paintings next week at the Affordable Art Fair New York. Come see us there to check out Thomas's work in person!
Take a peek at Thomas Hammer's work on Sugarlift.
LIVES & WORKS IN Harlem, New York City
OCCUPATION Artist with a web design side-hustle [or vice versa, depending on my deadlines]
ON THE CLOCK Most days are unpredictable. I like that.
YOUR ART WEEKEND Weekends present a constant tension between seeing art and creating it. I recently got a bike with warm-weather ambitions of hitting up UES museums, LES galleries, and maybe the Whitney all in the same day - an added bonus for getting some sun while avoiding weekend subway service.
ALBUM I'm more a playlist guy, but a recent album I can't get enough of is Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper. The work is so fresh, joyful, and rich. His lyrics are more vivid than images and turn that silly phrase about pictures saying 1,000 words entirely on its head.
FILM Cinema Paradiso. In our current political reality, I'm in favor of anything warm and escapist.
ARTIST Last weekend I was walking through the Whitney Biennial and a room of paintings by Carrie Moyer stopped me in my tracks. They were alluring, confident, and challenging. Later, I read an interview with her on Hyperallergic, and I love her work even more knowing her background as a feminist and queer activist.
BOOK The Arrivistes, a poetry collection by Jon Leon. I’m in favor of anything that manages to be both kitschy and sublime.
EATS In an ideal world with no health or financial consequences, I'd alternate between stuff they sell at the movie theater and stuff they serve in Michelin-starred restaurants.
LATEST PURCHASE A fancy-ass blender to mask protein powder and spinach. In the real world I’m trying to be more attentive to nutrition and self-care.
GUILTY PLEASURE Using the term self-care.
GRADE IN ART CLASS B. It actually wasn’t my best subject, but I learned the most when I was failing the hardest.
36 HOURS My next few months are pretty busy, but I’d like to plan a trip to Cuba. Hopefully I get there before Starbucks does. In April, I am going to Vegas with a friend from college and we’re also camping in Death Valley. It’s a little more than 36 hours, but not much.
In creating the black ink paintings you're well known for, you use a unique tool which is a hybrid between a squeegee and a brush. How did you come up with this process?
I started small and evolved to bigger and more complex. I like ink because it expresses movement so well and it’s a challenge to control. My initial experiments were much more aggressive and splatter-y. I wanted them to be more delicate and nuanced. I wanted to see if I could make something organic and minimal and gravity-defying. I kept at it, threw away a lot of works, and manipulated every variable I could think of while developing my technique. So, several years later, here we are.
Your work includes both calculated geometric lines and painting that appears very organic and free of defined form. Why do you choose to include both types of form, and how do you see them fitting together or interacting within your art?
I think the two bodies of work reflect different interests at different times. It’s like one of those choose-your-own-adventures books. I think I just followed two equally plausible paths to very different conclusions.