Tuesday, September 13, 2011

how sweet it was...Richard Hamilton, gone at 89

Every art history student in the western hemisphere has this image burned in their image bank:

Mr. Hamilton was often called the “Father of Pop Art” — Britain’s answer to Andy Warhol — and he was credited with coining the name for a movement marked by its ironic and iconic use of commercial and pop culture imagery. He died today, September 13th, 2011.

Mr. Hamilton was born in London on Feb. 24, 1922. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and the Slade School of Fine Art, and made his name in the 1950s with “Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?” The collage shows a physically idealized naked couple — with the man holding a red lollipop marked “Pop” — in a product-laden home. It was a seminal work of Pop Art.

For a half-century Mr. Hamilton produced images that were striking and often political, including Mick Jagger in handcuffs after a drug raid, portraits of prison protesters in Northern Ireland and an image of Blair as a cowboy in a 2007 piece titled “Shock and Awe.”

“I was really disgusted with his performance after starting the Iraq war, and being involved in starting it, and his hypocrisy,” the artist told an interviewer last year.

Still seething at Blair’s alliance with then-President George W. Bush, Mr. Hamilton said:
“When [Blair]went to America and was staying with Bush, he stayed at the ranch, and they came out for a walk for the cameras with their thumbs in their pockets.”

He added that Blair “was so pleased with himself.”

“Thinking of his role in relation to the Iraq war, I began to see this gunslinger as something like a cowboy,” he said.

The image was made using a photograph of Blair’s head. The rest of the figure was Mr. Hamilton’s assistant, who was “about half the size of Tony Blair, but with a computer you can stretch things.” The assistant wore a cowboy shirt someone had given Mr. Hamilton, as well as guns and holsters bought from an Arizona mail-order company.

One of Mr. Hamilton’s best-known works is the antithesis of Pop Art’s colorful cacophony: the monochrome cover of the Beatles’ 1968 “White Album,” a simple white square embossed with the band’s name. Mr. Hamilton also designed the collage-style poster that came with the album.

Mr. Hamilton also worked for decades on a mammoth project to illustrate James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses.”
He told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that acclaim had come because “I’ve lived longer than all my peers.” But others saw him as a major artistic figure.

richard hamilton
shock and awe
inkjet print on hewlett-packard premium canvas
200 x 100 cm
© 2010 richard hamilton

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