Monday, October 22, 2012

Richard Hamilton at The National Gallery

The show of Richard Hamilton's last paintings is delightfully dislocating. The works are not all that large but they create a dizzy sense of space. A maid vacuums a hotel lobby (she's naked as it happens) behind her hangs a painting of another hotel lobby, the same painting is hanging in the exhibition room.
The games with space make the sense of illusion extremely vivid. The palette in Portrait of Woman as an Artist (shown here) seems so real that I would not have felt much in the way of shock if the woman had come to life and handed it to me through the frame.

Richard Hamilton died last year, just short of his ninetieth birthday. His defining painting has always been Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?(below). which caused him to be acclaimed the Father of Pop Art as long ago as the 1950s.  Continuities between what he good-humouredly came to accept as his masterpiece can be seen in his last works not least in the playful self-reference to vacuum cleaners. These are multimedia collages which mix oil, photography and digital art. Beneath them lie the mathematical principle of Renaissance perspective. These are intellectual paintings and Marcel Duchamp who bequeathed us the mixed blessings of conceptual art before abandoning painting and sculpture for chess, is referenced Nude Descending a Staircase. There is nothing cold in the intellectualism, the show is a celebration in the childish delight in art as realistic illusion, something we have forgotten in the image saturated age we live in.
The exhibition is at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London until January 13 2013, admission free. More details here.

Both works shown here are copyright of The Estate of Richard Hamilton. 

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