Thursday, 15 September 2011

Remembering Richard Hamilton and 'An Exhibit', 1957

The British artist Richard Hamilton  has died aged 89. Hamilton made his name in 1956 with the Independent Group exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery entitled 'This is Tomorrow' (re-exhibited earlier this year) with his now infamous collage 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' and ushering in Pop Art. He also designed the 'white album' for The Beatles, documented the Rolling Stones drug bust with Robert Fraser and Mick Jagger in the the back of the police car in 'Swingeing London' and worked closely with Duchamp. But I want to explore his contribution  to abstraction in collaboration with Victor Pasmore entitled 'An Exhibit' from 1957.

Richard Hamilton (with Victor Pasmore), Exhibit 2,
installation view, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1959. Courtesy the artist
This has been re-made a number of times and filmed, especially at Generali Foundation in Austria. 'The premise of 'An Exhibit' was to show 'no objects, no ideas': a show that consisted of colourful panels loosely suspended in space so that visitors could amble freely between them. This formal decision to do without exhibits and make the display itself the subject of the show can be traced back to a series of attempts in modern art to expand painting into space, as in the case of El Lissitzky or Mondrian, or to elevate the display to the status of a subject in itself, as in the case of Frederick Kiesler or Herbert Bayer. 'An Exhibit' is relevant also as a form of interrogation of the institutional space and the roles played by authorship and the position of the beholder: composed of modular elements, the space enables forever different subjective experiences of spatiality as the visitors become authors who "conceive" the space in forever new ways. The translucent panels, finally, mark a play with the experience of transparency and opacity that is of decisive importance to the subject’s perceptions in a world defined by media.'

Re-exhibition, 'An Exhibit', Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria
Check out the exhibition from earlier this year and all the other great art at the Generali Foundation in Vienna. Read Jonathan Jones comments in the Guardian. Another great artist from the 1960's dies, Richard Hamilton 1922-2011.  

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