Yale Bulletin and Calendar

January 30, 2004|Volume 32, Number 16















This 1991 color laser print by Richard Hamilton -- titled "Just what was it that made yesterday's homes so different, so appealing?" -- is on view in a new exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art.

Show features iconic Pop Art
prints by Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton, a leading figure in the Pop Art movement, will be the subject of a major retrospective exhibit opening Feb. 12 at the Yale Center for British Art, the only U.S. venue for the show.

"Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples, 1939-2002" will be on view through May 24.

Hamilton, now 81, selected the more than 150 artworks for the show. The prints and multiples were drawn from the extensive holdings of the Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland as well as from the artist's own collection. The exhibition was organized by the Kunstmuseum Winterthur.

The exhibition features works ranging from Hamilton's first foray into drypoint in 1939, through his role in the Pop Art movement to his current work with digital media.

A related exhibition -- titled "Just what is it that makes British Pop so different, so appealing?" -- also opens on Feb. 12. Drawn from the Yale Center for British Art's collections of prints, drawings, and rare books and manuscripts, it traces the development of British Pop from the mid-1950s to its flowering in the 1960s.

Hailed for works that combine technical innovation, intellectual sophistication and wit, Hamilton is considered one of the most influential figures in British art today. He has produced nearly 200 prints over his long career. His investigation of the complex relationships between fine art and consumer culture, and originality and mass production, has also resulted in a series of multiples.

The exhibit explores the artist's ongoing preoccupation with printmaking and the philosophical issues implicit in creating multiple images. It also documents his technical experiments with print media, his relationship with his artistic predecessors and contemporaries, and his examination of fundamental issues of modern life.

Hamilton studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Slade School of Art. He made his first prints when he was 17 years old, using drypoint on celluloid. He went on to explore etching, a medium to which he has repeatedly returned. He was a founding member of the Independent Group, an assemblage of artists, architects and cultural historians who met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in the mid-1950s to debate issues of modernism. In 1956, Hamilton participated in "This is Tomorrow," a group exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London that explored themes of technology and mass and commodity culture. The artist's collage titled "Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?" was reproduced as a poster for the show and became an icon of the new spirit of modernity.

The following year, Hamilton formulated his celebrated list of defining characteristics of Pop: "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; and Big Business."

In the early 1960s, Hamilton met and began collaborating with the screenprinter Christopher Prater. At the time, screenprinting was regarded as a commercial medium, unsuitable for fine art production, but Hamilton was attracted by its capacity for incorporating reproduced imagery. His and Prater's first collaboration produced "Adonis in Y fonts," a now iconic image that draws on both art-historical referents and consumer culture. Hamilton continued his investigation of screenprinting with such seminal images as "Swingeing London," "Interior," "Kent State" and his homage to Marilyn Monroe, "My Marilyn."

Hamilton went on to work with some of the most celebrated European master printers and to explore other processes, including collotype and photogravure. He also was introduced to American Pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein through his friendship with the Dada/Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp. During the 1970s he advanced the avant-garde of British art through solo exhibitions and in collaborative shows with artists such as Dieter Roth in 1976. The Yale exhibition features prints created by their joint endeavors, as well as the Iris print "Portrait of Dieter Roth," which Hamilton made in 1993, the year of his friend's death.

In 1987, Hamilton was one of a group of six artists invited to experiment with the newly developed Quantel Paintbox for the television series "Painting with Light," and became fascinated with the possibilities that the computer offered for digitally manipulating images. He continues to create prints using new technology, often in combination with more traditional techniques. Of his blending of these techniques, the artist has said: "a medium need not sit in isolated purity. It has always been my contention that the first objective is to achieve a compelling image."

"Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples" includes a group of dye transfer and Iris digital prints, including "A mirrorical return," his tribute to Duchamp. The retrospective also features examples of his series of multiples that celebrate and subvert the notion of consumer culture, as well as a group of prints inspired by James Joyce's novel "Ulysses."

The exhibition is accompanied by a 320-page book that includes contributions by Hamilton. The volume will be available at the center's Museum Shop. For more information or to order, call (203) 432-2828.

Related exhibition and special events

Artworks by Hamilton's contemporaries are featured in the complementary exhibition "Just what is that makes British Pop so different, so appealing." Among the artists represented are Peter Blake, David Hockney, John McHale, R.B. Kitaj and Eduardo Paolozzi.

Two of the most celebrated portfolios of the Pop era -- Paolozzi's "As is When" and Hockney's "Rake's Progress" are on view in the exhibition, which runs through May 9. The exhibit was organized by Gillian Forrester, associate curator of prints and drawings, with Sarah Cree and Eric Stryker, doctoral candidates in the Department of the History of Art.

Two documentary films will be screened in the exhibition. The 1979 film "Fathers of Pop" charts the creation and activities of the Independent Group, which originated Pop Art in the mid-1950s. The 1969 documentary "Richard Hamilton," directed by James Scott, includes commentary created by the artist, who was so involved in the film's production that Scott commented, "... it is as much by him as about him."

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 12:30 p.m., Forrester will present an Art in Context talk on the exhibit "Richard Hamilton: A Retrospective." Other special events offered in conjunction with the exhibits include the Richard Hamilton Lectures, which will be presented in March by Jonathan D. Katz, executive coordinator of Yale's Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies, and Stephen Coppel, assistant keeper in the British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings.

A film series titled "Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking Cinemascope and Stereophonic Sound," featuring films that directly influenced Hamilton or relate thematically to his works, will also begin in March. These and other related events will appear in the "Calendar" section of this newspaper.

The Yale Center for British Art, located at 1080 Chapel St., is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information on the center or its programs, call (203) 432-2800 or visit www.yale.edu/ycba.


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