Madrid is hosting the largest retrospective held to date on the British artist Richard Hamilton. The exhibition, organized by the Reina Sofía
, was designed specifically for the Madrid museum by Hamilton himself, who became directly involved with the work when he visited the city in the early months of 2010.
The exhibition on view at the Museo Reina Sofía includes some 270 works created in the course of more than sixty years (1949 to 2011), and shows both the extraordinary variety of media, techniques and genres that characterizes Hamiltons production, and the importance, influence and relevance of his revolutionary work. It is curated by Vicente Todolí and Paul Schimmel.
This is the last project in which this pioneer of Pop Art and prophet of postmodernism was directly involved before his death in September 2011. A large part of the show about 160 works was on view at the Tate Modern in London.
The exhibition is made up of paintings, engravings, drawings, photographs, computer printouts, industrial designs and replicas. In these pieces, the artist tackled genres like the still life, the portrait, figurative representation, landscape, interiors, historical painting, political propaganda, religious iconography, and the appropriation of elements from popular culture and art history.
The exhibition is further distinguished by the important presence of five large-scale installations, which recreate exhibitions that the most influential British artist of the 20th century organized, designed or took part in.
The installations on display are Lobby, 1985-7; an Exhibit, 1957; This Is Tomorrow, 1956; Man, Machine and Motion, 1955; and Growth and Form, 1951. The last of these is on view for the first time since it was created 61 years ago. Three of them were also shown at the Tate. Besides the fact that they may be considered precursors of the happenings of the late fifties and early sixties, these installations also anticipate the abandonment of hierarchies in artistic milieus and the emergence of an international creative sensibility in the nineties which gave rise to the concept of the artistic installation in contemporary art.
The retrospective also looks at the importance of Hamiltons relations with design, painting, photography, technology and television, as well as his collaborations with other artists, examples being the portraits of himself which he invited other artists to take with a Polaroid camera, among them Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
The sources of Hamiltons inspiration were very diverse, ranging from mechanical drawings to popular culture, and from the work of old masters like Fra Angelico and Giorgione to modern artists and authors like Marcel Duchamp and James Joyce.
The plurality of his work, heterogeneous but at the same time coherent, built a bridge between the modern and postmodern eras, making him a major figure for the new generation of artists influenced by conceptual art. Indeed, Hamilton is internationally recognized not only as one of the founders of Pop Art but also as a precursor of appropriationism, the installation, and other trends that have since been cultivated.
For this occasion, the Museo Reina Sofía has brought out a catalogue with reproductions of the works on display and texts by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, Mark Godfrey, Richard Hamilton, Alice Rawsthorn, Paul Schimmel, Fanny Singer and Victoria Walsh.