Richard Hamilton is usually credited with creating pop art, but he was also the forerunner of appropriationism, installation art and many other artistic trends that caught the world by surprise throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Artistically descended from Marcel Duchamp, Hamilton’s work is characterized by irony and playfulness, which form an integral part of his critical reflections and permanent research.
On Friday, Madrid’s Reina Sofía museum opened the most comprehensive retrospective of his oeuvre ever assembled.
Comprising over 270 artworks, it was conceived by the artist himself in 2010, a year before his death. A reduced version of the show opened at London’s Tate Modern last winter, featuring about a third of the works now on display in Madrid.
Besides all of his best-known and most representative work – the cover of The Beatles’ White Album, the celebrity series Swingeing London 67,the Duchamp reproductions, My Marilyn, Interior and The Solomon R.Guggenheim – the Reina Sofía is also showcasing Hamilton’s final work, in which he went back to playing with photography and painting. A 2010 portrait of Tony Blair depicted as a tameless cowboy provides some insight into the corrosive spirit that the artist maintained right up to the end.
Yet the truly major difference between the London and Madrid retrospectives resides in their structure. Reina Sofía director Manuel Borja-Villel explains that the project began to take shape five years ago, when Hamilton visited his museum to reproduce a Duchamp piece, The Large Glass.
“To this great continuator of Duchamp’s work, the creative process mattered more than style,” explains Borja-Villel. “What he was mostly interested in was the event. What he cared about in an exhibition was the concept and its organization. And he wanted this to be an exhibition of exhibitions.”
Following Hamilton’s guidelines, the Reina Sofía reconstructed five large-scale installations: Growth and Form,Lobby, An Exhibit, This is Tomorrowand Man, Machine and Motion.
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