Richard Hamilton — a groundbreaking British artist credited with producing the first piece of “Pop Art” — died this past week, Sept. 13. His 10″ x 9″ collage (above) — entitled, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so appealing, so different? — was first shown in 1956. And yes, that Tootsie Pop — and the phrase “Pop Art”– are now forever intertwined. How thrilling to learn that it was a collage — this collage — that established the term. What is Pop Art? Hamilton said:
Pop art is:
Popular (designed for a mass audience),
Transient (short-term solution),
Expendable (easily forgotten),
Low cost, Mass produced,
Young (aimed at youth),
Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big business.
RICHARD HAMILTON: Epiphany, 1964
(C) Richard Hamilton. Used with permission of Gagosian Gallery and The Tate
I allude, quite a bit, to ‘living more simply’ — “like they did in the postwar era.”
RICHARD HAMILTON: Swingeing London 67 (f) 1968-9
Acrylic, collage and aluminium on canvas painting
Purchased 1969, The Tate
But OF COURSE, in the wake of the relative affluence that arose after World War II, there were many critics… people who worried about forsaking deeper, richer values in the name of the making money and buying stuff. Hamilton’s “What makes today’s homes so appealing…” — which became his most famous piece — seems clearly to be questioning the direction that consumerism was taking us. In my reading, I take away that Hamilton’s work continued to be politically-conscious, politically-focused throughout his career. But, I was also interested in what Hamilton wrote in the Architectural Digest, when speaking about another later work:
“It looks as though the painting is a sardonic comment on our society. But I would like to think of my purpose as a search for what is epic in everyday objects and attitudes.”
- Richard Hamilton – his obituary in the New York Times …
- A verbatim interview, 2003, in which he discusses what pop art is, and isn’t…
- This write-up for a 2003 exhibition is good…
- He also designed the famous cover of the Beatles’ White Album
- And see more works in the Museum of Modern Art’s online database – cool!
In one interview, Hamilton says that Richard Wilson and Gary Hill are, today, two favorite artists. I am now going to check them out.
Rest in peace, Richard Hamilton.