Richard Hamilton U.K., 1922-2011
"Pop Art is: popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business" - Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton is known as one of the main innovators of early Pop Art. His famous 1956 collage, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? is considered one of the foundational artworks of the Pop Art movement.
Hamilton spent World War II working as a draftsman for the military, and subsequently attended art school. During the 1950s Hamilton began to formulate an idea of Pop Art, describing it as, "expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young," based on a discussion group he formed with other young artists and critics at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts. Those artists were later featured in the ground-breaking group show, "This Is Tomorrow," which featured Hamilton's iconic collage. The image is built from tabloid magazine images, film stills, architecture and design publications, and advertisements. It depicts the living room of a modern home, over-stuffed with food and gadgetry like reel-to-reel tape players and vacuum cleaners. Different textures and patterns collide. On a couch, a topless woman performs a burlesque for spectators, while at the bottom of a flight of stairs, a young body-builder flexes his muscles, posing dramatically, but also holds an enormous Tootsie Pop. This was not the same Pop Art envisioned by artists like Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol: Hamilton's work was far more critical and pointed.
Hamilton was an activist during much of his career, advocating for nuclear disarmament, organizing Marcel Duchamp's first British retrospective, and ensuring the conservation of Kurt Schwitters's Merzbau installation. Later, from 1981-83, as painting became a greater pre-occupation in his work, he produced a trilogy about the civil war in Northern Ireland. The images take the form of icons about each of the major characters participating in that conflict: IRA rebels, loyalist politicians, and British soldiers on patrol. These images were taken from television news, representative of Hamilton's continuing and modernizing interest in technology. He was also an early adopter and developer of computers in the arts.
Hamilton's work remains of great importance to subsequent generations of artists and is held in major public collections around the world. He has been the subject of numerous retrospectives and exhibitions, including shows at the Tate London, Documenta, the Venice Biennale, the São Paulo Biennial, the Guggenheim, and Britain's National Gallery, among others.