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Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern
May 8, 2014
Considered in the popular consciousness as an American phenomenon with Warhol at its helm, it is often forgotten that Pop Art is a movement started in Great Britain: Sir Peter Blake, David Hockney and Richard Hamilton helped to start a moment in art history that changed contemporary art forever. Richard Hamilton at Tate Modern aims to help you remember one of these influential men.
The first room is a little bit of a confusing one for a visitor used to the large white rooms of large bright art, this room is dark and filled with scientific objects and even the wall text is hidden from you. Representative of Growth and Form, Hamilton’s 1951 show at the ICA, you couldn’t be blamed for walking straight through to find something a bit clearer and more grounded. It is an interesting space, but not the first thing that jumps to mind when considering Hamilton. His protest pictures and images of Mick Jagger hit a more familiar and enjoyable note.
A fan of complete chronological retrospectives, Tate Modern is not the most energetic space. A few rooms are truly inspirational: recreating Treatment Room, 1984, in which Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 Party Election Broadcast is shown, soundless, over a hospital slab table is haunting and representative of a political malaise that underscores society to this day, and Polaroids and Portraits is a touching look at artists’ interactions with photographic representations. But, as always, there are a few rooms you wish you hadn’t had to see. Finding recurring themes and interests in Hamilton’s long career (from issues of perspective to popular cinematic releases) are great, I just didn’t need the postcards of people defecating.
The space representing This is Tomorrow, a 1956 show of artistic and architectural collaboration, this room hosts Hamilton’s ‘Fun House’, made with John Voelcker and John McHale. An interactive sculpture of film, textures and even a microphone letting the visitors air their opinions around the gallery space, it is the artwork that feels less “Tate”. A ground-breaking piece that really reflects a point in history where artists took risks and commented on popular representations, it makes comments in an immersive and less obvious way than much art today.
Hamilton described Pop Art as, amongst other things, ‘young’, ‘witty’ and ‘sexy’ and a lot of this show embodies these adjectives. It can be difficult to imagine that a lot of it was created over 40 years ago. Fittingly he also described the movement as ‘big business’ and thanks to Tate Modern it undoubtedly is. Richard Hamilton: a blockbuster show of highs and lows.
Words by Ellen Stone
Richard Hamilton can be seen at the Tate Modern until May 26th, for more information go to – http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/richard-hamilton