Golden Oldies: Highlights from Art Basel 2013
Reminiscent of a nineteenth-century photograph, Hamilton’s treatment of the belligerent “citizen” in the tavern scene from James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) is based on a picture of the imprisoned Irish nationalist Raymond Pius McCartney. McCartney, who is also the subject of Hamilton’s painting The citizen (1982–83; Tate, London), was among the IRA members who went on a notorious hunger strike at H. M. Prison Maze in Northern Ireland in 1980 (he was released in 1994). Here, Hamilton conflates the real-life McCartney with Finn MacCool, the
hunter-warrior of Irish legend whom Joyce’s citizen cites as a Gaelic inspiration.
In his celebrated collages, Richard Hamilton explored the relationship between fine art, product design, and popular culture, setting the stage for Pop art. His most iconic work, Just What Is it that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956)—a scene comprised of images cut from magazines ads, showing a semi-nude couple in their living space—was produced for the groundbreaking exhibition “This is Tomorrow,” organized by the Independent Group at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1956. Throughout his career, Hamilton continued to break down hierarchies of artistic value, making silkscreens of Mick Jagger’s drug arrest, producing studies of industrial design objects (like toasters), and designing the cover of the Beatles’ 1968 White Album.
British, 1922-2011, London, United Kingdom