Published on March 3, 2014 | by Rosie Atkin0
Exhibition review: Richard Hamilton retrospective
If you are planning to visit the Richard Hamilton retrospective at the Tate Modern, I can offer one piece of advice; fuel yourself and eat before you enter, because this exhibition spans 18 rooms, each brimming full of diverse work. Barely a single space is left unused, each work imitable. You need to concentrate, so be prepared.
London-born and an alumnus of the Slade School of Art, Richard Hamilton was regarded as a titan of pop-art during his prolific 60 year career. His career covered many experimental artistic bases, from his early etchings of engineering technology through to his forays in design, photography and interiors.
The exhibition serves as a guided tour through each fine detail of Hamilton’s development; beginning with rooms Growth and Form and Reapers, 1949-1951, onto Early paintings, 1950-1954 in which Hamilton’s style of meticulous study is introduced. His experimentations with perspective shared Cubist sensibilities, producing repeated paintings from multiple angular and unexpected focal points, most notable in 1952’s d’Orientation.
It is from this point that the exhibition engulfs visitors into Hamilton’s mild obsession with pop-culture. This is tomorrow, 1956 exemplifies Hamilton’s continued reference to interiors, through themes of celebrity, product placement, and of course the bright binge colours of pop-art.
Pop, 1957-1963 showcases the combination of pop-art Hamilton uses; his tendency to repeatedly study and tamper with perspective against human forms blurring with the man-made.
President Kennedy and sports icons hide within collages, hinting towards Hamilton’s political interest in his later works.
The variety of Hamilton’s interests is dizzying; from his work with Marcel Duchamp, a collaborative response verging on scientific, this project showed the entrapment of man-made icons within clear plastic – like a petri dish or microscopic slate. As the famed series Swinging Sixties documented Mick Jagger’s court case, Hamilton managed to encompass the dulling down of an era through his use of dark and heavily saturated printing methods.
Elsewhere Interiors 1964 reveal multiple studies of interior design – the ideal home of the sixties refracted by mirrors, cubist angles and pop-culture icons. Later in the exhibition, these ideas are fully realised in pieces such as Treatment Room and Lobby – rooms transformed into walk-in interior installations.
Hamilton’s later works were nonetheless calculated and fine-tuned. The exhibition shows his continued engagement with progressive mediums of art, dabbling with photography, but never far from a few flickers of his pop-art oil-painted past. Political undertones become more evident, depicted in Hamilton’s response to the IRA ‘dirty protest’ of 1980 in The Citizen, and progressing towards the parody of Tony Blair as a gun-wielding cowboy in Shock and Awe.
After 18 rooms and a comprehensive timeline of art, this extensive collection does not skip a single step of Hamilton’s career. Recurrent themes merge before you, pulling in the diversity of interests Hamilton touched upon.
If you dedicate yourself to this exhibition, you dedicate yourself to Hamilton and you will be rewarded by the sheer scope of his engagement with modern art and design.
The Richard Hamilton exhibition, is on display until May 26, 2014.