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

June 10—September 4, 2022

Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men features a suite of monumental new works created for this exhibition. 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—that result in dynamic, surreal, and critical responses to personal experience and social and cultural issues. Renowned for his use of wood—taking disparate natural 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.

Highlighting a series of newly created artworks that contend with personal subjects and recent political themes, Boogey Men is divided into multiple galleries that suggest suburban interior and exteriors, highlighting the artist’s interests in socially produced spaces as well as the fraught ideas of the “American Dream” and notions of idealism, culture, wealth, agency, and success.

At the center of the exhibition 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—a powerful statement on the role and ongoing state of police brutality in the United States.

An adjacent gallery suggests an interior space, where the artist presents Nude (2021)—a skeletal figure made of bald cypress trees, its surfaces proliferated with bifurcating branches. Among other references, the work suggests a family tree: Hayden sourced the 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 nearby from the ceiling is Soul Food (2021), a cluster of copper-plated pots, pans, and instruments. The visually cacophonous work consists of 12 “musician” and instrument “pairs”—each duo is made up of a cast-iron skillet anthropomorphized with an African mask, as well as the artist’s own mouth and ears. Hayden has long been preoccupied with traditional African artifacts and traditions. In Soul Food, these themes come together into a monumental jazz band, speaking to the origins of American cuisine and music.

Hugh Hayden (b. 1983, Dallas) lives and works in New York. He holds a MFA from Columbia University and a bachelor of architecture from Cornell University. 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 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Princeton University Art Museum; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men is organized by ICA Miami and curated by Alex Gartenfeld, Artistic Director. The presentation at Blaffer Art Museum is organized by Tyler Blackwell, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Associate Curator.

Hugh Hayden: Boogey Men, installation view, Blaffer Art Museum.

Public Programs


Friday, June 10 / 6:00pm