Although it had a major impact on a global scale, Pop art is widely perceived as a specifically American phenomenon despite its British origins. Contributing to the movement in no small part was Richard Hamilton.
Hamilton's art defined the orientation of the British Pop art in the late 1950s through his meticulously layered collages and paintings. His body of work was constantly evolving throughout the decades as he felt inspired by the legacy of International Modernism, and particularly the art of Marcel Duchamp.
To walk through his entire oeuvre, and offer new insights in terms of Hamilton’s liaison with Duchamp, Pallant House Gallery organized an exhibition featuring works from their own collection of British Pop Art.
Richard Hamilton was unmistakably the leading practitioner of Pop art in Britain, but also a thorough excavator and promoter of Marcel Duchamp who understood his seminal role in the development of avant-garde.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, the deeds of the celebrated French figure were unfamiliar to wider audiences, so Hamilton practically rediscovered the artist, organized the retrospective of his work at the Tate Gallery in 1966, and was in charge of the revitalization of Duchamp’s iconic artwork The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915 – 23). The celebrated Pop artist was inspired by the Duchampian concepts to such an extent that he even perceived Duchamp as a genuine philosopher whose artworks are allegorical depictions of desire.
This exhibition features 20 works by Hamilton including Hers is a Lush Situation (1958), Adonis in Y-Fonts (1963), and Swingeing London 67 (1968) that show how he articulated mass media and reportage, as well as early studies from the 1950s, the works from the 1970s, and more recent works that unravel Hamilton’s exploration of the digital technology.
The visitors have a unique chance to see The Oculist Witness (1967), a work made jointly by Duchamp and Hamilton. This particular screenprint, based on the French artist’s celebrated work Large Glass, is based on a photograph of dentures and an electric toothbrush. It is juxtapozed against Hamilton’s 1968 work The Critic Laughs.
The current exhibition curated by Louise Weller is valuable in the terms of confirming the connection between the two artists, indicating the continuity of the avant-garde impulses and legacy passing from one era to another.
The majority of featured works were collected by Prof. Sir Colin (Sandy) St. John Wilson, who was Hamilton’s friend, a fellow member of the 1950s Independent Group, and architect of the Pallant House Gallery’s extension. In 2006 Wilson and his family donated around 500 works to the gallery through Art Fund.
Richard Hamilton: Respective will be on display at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, UK, until 14 March 2021.
Featured image: Richard Hamilton, Adonis in Y-Fronts, 1963. Screenprint on paper. Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Loan, 2006) © Richard Hamilton 2020. All rights reserved, DACS. All images courtesy Pallant House Gallery.