I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Friday, 12 March 2010
Richard Hamilton, Inventor of Pop Art
Everybody is talking about (sorry - seeing Irving Penn at the NPG and The Sweet Smell of Success in the same week has addled my brain) Richard Hamilton. Hamilton is the grandaddy, no - inventor of Pop Art. He has a show on at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London, England which I saw last week.
It's a mixture of old work and new work with some of the newer work not quite hitting the spot - as This Guardian review points out. It doesn't work "where politics take over and the art becomes subordinate". And here's another review which says why Hamilton makes art out of the obvious.
I like the obvious because it is often not that obvious (and certainly not as obvious as we assume it to be - from our little self-contained world of self-contained assumptions). We need constant reminding of the obvious to help us stay human, to help us remember that killing and lying and stealing are bad. The simplicity and directness of the Palestine Map works incredibly well, especially with the Mordechai Vanunu print (based on the photo above) right next to it. It's obvious but it still manages to be visceral.
Hamilton's work clears the smoke and mirrors of the world around us and then reapplies it until only the memory remains. It's influential (you can see bits of Hamilton directly in some of Paul Graham's work for example, as well as so, so many other people working with photography), and for me, the only pieces that dont' work are the Blair-based prints and mouldings, but that is because Blair is a slippery, chimerical character who exists only in the realms of his own fevered parallel-universe of an imagination. Nothing good can come out of him - not even good in a bad way, or bad in a good way.
The Times calls him the most important artist in Britain.
"America being America, the claims of Hamilton, Paolozzi and co to having instigated pop art have been ruthlessly swatted away. But the facts are the facts. And the facts tell us that, by 1954, Hamilton was producing collages and screenprints filled with film stars, comic heroes, pin-ups, pile-ups and kitchen goodies, whose chief purpose was to question the modern relationship between a consumer and his goodies. Even today, in this serpentine display at the Serpentine, Hamilton is surreptitiously investigating the manipulation of the buyer by the seller"
And this is Hamilton speaking in an Interview with the Telegraph
“I have a concept of being rejected for most of my life,” Hamilton tells me, with a smile. “When I had a show at the Tate in 1992 [his last London exhibition], it was rated the worst show of the year. And I felt rather proud of that, really – I’d come out on top for something at last. But I’ve always felt the same way: I never did anything that anybody else wanted.”
And the picture at the top is by Juergen Teller.