Who the #$&% is Richard Hamilton? (And why should you, *|FIRSTNAME|* *|LASTNAME|*care?)

Richard Hamilton, the father of pop art, passed away this morning. The Independent Group (a collective of British art historians, artists, sculptors, et al.) formed in 1952 at the London Institute of Contemporary Art to address, without irony, popular culture and its implications. A major influence on future generations of pop artists, Richard Hamilton was a member of this pioneering group along with Eduardo Paolozzi, John McHale, Alison and Peter Smithson, and Reyner Banham. In 1956, Hamilton, a disciple of the “Readymade” Marcel Duchamp, created Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So different, So Appealing? This collage was created from American magazine advertisements depicting a “modern” apartment adorned with products from mass culture: an Earth “ceiling” taken from Life magazine, a Hoover vacuum cleaner, a Stromberg-Carlson television, wall “art” of the cover to the Young Romance comic book (attention Roy Lichtenstein!), a tin of Armour Star ham, a newspaper, Armstrong flooring, a Reporter tape recorder, and a Ford emblem lampshade. These items, reminiscent of a consumer paradise, are encapsulated within a downtown apartment directly across from the Warner Cinema which was showing The Jazz Singer featuring Al Jolson. The image is flanked by two provoking nudes. The first, “Eve”, is a large-nippled female (American painter Jo Baer) wooing on the couch at her mate “Adam”: a muscular body builder (Irwin ‘Zabo’ Koszewski, winner of Mr. L.A. in 1954) who grasps a phallic Tootsie Pop. This theme of interior, which Hamilton revisits many times during his prolific career, depicts a social anxiety that this new consumerism could not be sustained. ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve,’ true to their story, must soon leave this consumer paradise. As John -Paul Stonar points out in Pop in the Age of Boom “Hamilton’s little picture seems to say that, in an Age of Boom, things sooner or later must go Pop”. This concept is eerily recognizable as the American economy (along with many others) tries to recover from the great “Pop”. Hamilton was eighty-nine.

Sandi Edgar

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