American, born in Sweden 1925-1997
Swedish-born artist Hans Hokanson moved to the United States in 1951 and studied painting in California before relocating to New York City, where he became a master cabinetmaker and furniture designer. After building wooden painting stretchers for the artist Mark Rothko, Hokanson worked as a carpenter for the East Hampton home and studio of painter Willem de Kooning. In 1960, he settled nearby in Northwest Creek, a marshy wetlands area bordered by a forest from which the artist sourced the wood for his sculpture. Throughout the 1960s his sculptures resembled mill wheels and ship’s gears. They were constructed from separate pieces of carved wood joined together with dowels.
Two important influences shaped Hokanson’s later work: the philosophy and aesthetics of Zen Buddhism and his studies of wooden artifacts from Africa and carvings from Indonesia, which he saw while working at the Museum of Primitive Art in New York. In the 1970s, Hokanson’s work grew in size as he began carving from single tree trunks, using a chainsaw to wrest forms out of the wood. “The saw takes over,” he said in an interview. “It makes me think differently, and my thoughts take shape in the wood.” After delineating the general, overall form of the sculpture with the chainsaw, Hokanson fine-tuned the details of each piece using hatchets and chisels.
Standing more than eight feet tall, Source was carved from a massive cherry tree. The column of wood twists as it rises, with curved edges meeting in ridges that wrap around the tree trunk, affording the viewer a range of different perspectives as they move around the work. Hokanson was perpetually inspired by nature and did most of his sculpting outside. The chiseled and gouged texture of the sculpture, rippling like water, amplifies its naturalistic qualities. When Source was exhibited at Long Island’s Guild Hall in 1980, a reviewer captured the spirit of Hokanson’s work, writing that the “forest comes to life again—as sculpture.”
Location: FNT Rotunda