Just what is it that makes Richard Hamilton so special, so appealing, so important?

Exhibition Review

  • "Richard Hamilton"

  • Tate Modern, London
  • 13 Feb 2014 - 26 May 2014
  • "Richard Hamilton Word & Image: Prints 1963–2007"

  • Alan Cristea Gallery, London
  • 14 Feb 2014 - 22 Mar 2014
  • "Richard Hamilton at the ICA"

  • Institute of Contemporary Art, London
  • 12 Feb 2014 - 06 Apr 2014
Richard Hamilton, Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing? (1992), color laser print, 26 x 25 cm. Image courtesy Tate Modern. ©Richard Hamilton 2005. All rights reserved, DACS. Reproduction of Hamilton’s 1956 collage of the same name.

Richard Hamilton, Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing? (1992), color laser print, 26 x 25 cm. Image courtesy Tate Modern. ©Richard Hamilton 2005. All rights reserved, DACS. Reproduction of Hamilton’s 1956 collage of the same name.

March in London this year offered a singular opportunity to see the work of the late Richard Hamilton in depth, centered on a major retrospective at the Tate Modern and supplemented by a choice exhibition of his prints at Alan Cristea Gallery and reconstructions of two of his notable installations, Man, Machine and Motion (1955) and an Exhibit (1957), at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Happily, the Tate’s expansive exhibition recognizes the centrality to Hamilton’s work of print as idea and printmaking as process—a welcome antidote to the many surveys that concentrate on painting and sculpture to the exclusion of graphic art—and showed the prints as fully integrated within the larger body of Hamilton’s wide-ranging oeuvre. The Cristea exhibition, devoted entirely to prints, allowed for a more intimate viewing experience and also included works the Tate missed, such as the etchings made after Joyce’s Ulysses [see Kit Smyth Basquin’s article, “Ineluctable Modality of the Visible: Illustrations for Joyce’s Ulysses,” in Art in Print, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Nov–Dec 2013)] or Collected Words (1982), a box of collotype/screenprints after Hamilton’s own early drawings, made to accompany a book of the artist’s writings. Together these exhibitions provided a chance to reassess an artist who was at the forefront of contemporary art from the 1950s until his death in 2011, and who remained an endearing presence in the British art scene.

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