Last exhibition at Tate Modern shows the entire Richard Hamilton’s works. It could be analysis from multiple point of view due to its richness but you will find hereto a selection of the exhibition’s rooms selected for its quality in terms of the treatment of space. It’s revealing how his first work with Peter and Alison Smithson has been influential for the remainder of his oeuvre. Even if the contribution ended up rapidly after their first exhibition This is Tomorrow in 1964, Richard Hamilton has kept the taste for representing interiors. With his favorite and over-mastered techniques of collages, he has travelled into ages composing with the same ingredients, updated in accordance with the epoca. Furniture, daily-use objects, flowers, womens are obsesively collected and coexists in the surface of the collage, coupled with painting, smooth cutted-forms. This creates the typical Hamiltonian space, mainly cool and pensive, far away from aggression of the exterior, creating contemporary lifestyles imagery.
Richard Hamilton was one of the most important artists of recent times, with a careerspanning from the late 1940s to 2011 Committed to moving from one style or subject to another, he approached all the historic genres of art in distinctly modern ways. He painted interiors, still lifes based on images of design objects, landscapes, flower paintings, portraits collaged from fashion magazines, as well as modern history paintings addressing subjects such as the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland and the Iraq wars.
Hamilton took a very experimental approach to art-making. He often produced several versions of a particular work rather than a single ‘finished’ piece, and throughout his career explored new printmaking methods and digital techniques. His interest in photography led him to use film stills, publicity photographs, and press shots as the basis for paintings, and to locate the boundary of abstraction and figuration in enlarged images. The mediation of images and information through modern technologies was an ongoing concern.
More than any other British artist of his generation, Hamilton associated with international colleagues. The foremost champion of Marcel Duchamp in the post-war era, he befriended and collaborated with American and European artists from Roy Lichtenstein to Dieter Roth.
For the first time, this retrospective presents Hamilton’s paintings, prints, and Polaroids alongside his exhibition designs and installations. These include Growth and Form 1951, the ‘Fun House’ from This is Tomorrow 1956. Treatment room 1984 and Lobby 1988. The ideas that he explored in exhibitions fed into his paintings, from canvases featuring searchins to the images of modern day consumables in his Pop works Recreations of a further two 1950s exhibitions – Man. Machine and Motion and an Exhibit -are being shown concurrently at the ICA.
The inferior had occupied Hamilton’s interest since his famous collage for This is Tomorrow. In 1964, he re-engaged with the genre after coming across a publicity still for the 1948 film Shockproof, in which the actress Patricia Knight stands ouer the body of a man she has just shot. Hamilton was intrigued by the way the image’s ‘foreboding atmosphere’ was achieved by a distorted use of perspective as much as by its overt content Hamilton’s research led to a series of collages, the painting Desk, and then to a pair of large paintings titled Interior I arid II. Hamillon set the silkscreened images of Knight in different spaces. Both feature curtains revealing scenes defined by strong, but not always coherent lines of perspective. The first is dominated by a desk and a mirror showing the space outside; in the second, more modern interior, the metallic backing of an Eames chair reflects light from its surroundings, while a TV introduces another external space: Dallas. 1963. and the assassination of President Kennedy completed on 9th September 2011.
Design – Architecture – Products, 1964-79
As well as American products, such as the badge reading SLIP IT TO ME that he enlarged to create the painting Epiphany, Hamilton had long been interested in post-war European design. He particularly admired the German electrical company Braun and its Chief Design Officer Dieter Rams, whose ‘consumer products’, Hamilton wrote, ‘have come to occupy a place in my heart and consciousness that Mont Sainte-Victoire did in Cezanne’s’.Hamilton began to base works on Braun’s marketing images. For Still-life he enlarged and printed a readymade image of a portable grill; a year later he began work on his first Toasferand related studies and prints. Using highly reflective chromed steel for the face of the toaster and the Irame, Hamilton set the sharply reflected image of the viewer/consumer against a strange blur.
Around this time, Hamilton worked on a series of reliefs based on the exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, which had opened in 19S9 Sprayed with cellulose lacquer or coated with gold leaf or metalflake (used in customised ears] these highly seductive reliefs suggest that the iconic appearance of the museum had become as impactful as its collection.
Hamilton’s approach to design could be irreverent and witty; he produced a case and an accompanying TV commercial for a multiple titled The critic laughs, mounting a set of dentures on a hand-held electric toothbrush. Later, in the 1970s, he turned his first name into an advert, and modified the merchandise used for Ricard pastis on ashtrays, signs and carafes.
Hamilton had owned a postcard of a Berlin hotel lobby for many years before he began working on a painting based on the image He saw the lobby as a somewhat impersonal and claustrophobic space: ‘I have been moved to say thai Lobby is an old man’s picture, the atmosphere is certainly none too cheery.’ Hamilton compared his painting to Jean-Paul Sartre’s play Hois Ctos, which he said was ‘a metaphor for purgatory, the limbo in which we await transit to another condition.’
He also wanted to make a painting of an interior that, while mundane, was spatially complex. With his longstanding interest in perspective systems, Hamilton developed a work with several vanishing points, thanks to the reflection; of the space in two planes of a mirrored column. The inclusion of two (lights of stairs made the space more perplexing still. Having completed the painting in 1987, Hamilton showed it in 1988 in Edinburgh, creating an installation to double the depicted space, complete with stairs, the column, and the dotted carpet Like Treatment room, this somewhat disorienting environment stands in contrast to the playful installation of his 1956 ‘Fun House’.
Interiors and Angels
In 1994, Hamilton made a show for the Anthony d’Otfay Gallery in London. Deciding to produce ‘a series of paintings relating to a space in its entirety’, he photographed sewn sections of the empty gallery walls, making adjustments to the images on his computer to correct the distortions created by his wide-angle lens Next he set about photographing seven interiors of his Oxfordshire home. Each image included a view into another space, seen through a doorway or window. The domestic interiors were digitally pasted into place on the gallery interior images, and the Cibachromes were printed onto canvas In one instance, oil paint if was added on the surface. ‘The group of seven rooms developed into a I portrait of a house’, he wrote.
7 Rooms was recreated at Documenta X in Kassel in 1997, after which Hamilton ‘became interested in populating these empty interiors’ He photographed his wife and a friend, setting the figures in the interiors of his house The works premiered in an exhibition in Venice in 2007 called I A Host of Angels. For Hamilton, angels are ‘pure spirits without substance, or gender’, but, he explained, ‘since pure spirits without substance are I difficult to configure, the female form is my preferred option.’
The series reprises many of Hamilton’s concerns. The woman speaking on the telephone in An annunciation recalls a section of the 1956 collage Just what is it. .. Meanwhile. The passage ol the bride shows the reflection of Hamilton’s model in the glazing covering his drawing of The Large Glass, which is hanging in the passageway in his home: the figure appears as ‘mirrorical apparition’ of Duchamp’s Bride.
. Tate Modern: Exhibition, Richard Hamilton, 13 February – 26 May 2014
. Mark Godfrey, Paul Schimmel, Vicente Todoli, Richard Hamilton, London, Tate Publisher, 2014