To start its 40th anniversary year, the Serpentine Gallery
presents Richard Hamilton: Modern Moral Matters, a solo exhibition by one of the worlds most respected living artists. This will be the first major presentation of Hamiltons work in London since 1992 and will include several new works created especially for the Serpentine Gallery exhibition.
Richard Hamilton has embraced many different media since the 1950s, including painting, printmaking, installation, typography and industrial design. This major exhibition will reassess the nature of the British artists pioneering contribution, focusing on Hamiltons political, or protest, works.
The installations, prints and paintings on view take international politics, riots, terrorist acts and war, including the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Iraq wars, as their subject matter. The works examine how these conflicts are represented by the media, including via television and the internet.
Hamilton has seen great changes in communication technologies throughout his working life. In 1969, he noted that: In the Fifties we became more aware of the possibility of seeing the whole world, at once, through the great visual matrix that surrounds us, a synthetic instant view. Cinema, television, magazines, newspapers flooded the artist with a total landscape.
Through its fragmentation of images, manipulation of space and reference to different styles and genres, Hamiltons work interrogates the representations that surround us. Yet his analysis of the image is counterbalanced by an underlying, allegoric lyricism, through which he reinvigorates the genres of portraiture and history painting.
This survey of Hamilton's political works also explores in depth the artist's working processes and the varied ways he uses photographic material. It investigates his continued interest in creating multiples of a single, iconic image as both a mirror and a critique of the visual overload created by the media.
The exhibition is curated by Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-Director, and Sophie OBrien, Exhibition Curator, Serpentine Gallery.
Richard Hamilton, born in 1922, was a leading instigator of Pop Art in Britain in the 1950s. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1938 until it closed for the war in 1940. Too young for conscription, he was sent by the Ministry of Labour to be trained for nine months to become a draughtsman. He then worked in an armaments factory until he was able to return to the Royal Academy Schools when it reopened in 1946. He later studied at the Slade School of Art. His first solo show was held in 1950 to critical acclaim and he subsequently went on to exhibit widely, becoming one of the most significant artists working in the UK. Hamilton was a key member and exponent of the Independent Group, formed in the 1950s by a group of artists and writers at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Hamilton taught at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne; he gave up teaching full-time in 1966. Always engaging with a wide range of technological processes within his art, Hamilton began creating computer generated works in the 1980s. He has had a long career as a printmaker and in 1983 won the World Print Council Award. Retrospective exhibitions of Hamilton's work have been held in the UK at the Hanover Gallery (1964), the Tate Gallery (1970 and 1992). Hamilton was Britain's representative at the 1993 Venice Biennale. He participated in the Serpentine Gallery Interview Marathon (2006).