Richard Hamilton - 1956 - Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?

Richard Hamilton

Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?
collage, 1956

Richard Hamilton was one of the founders of the British pop movement in 1955. Pop art embraced everyday art from ads, commercials, the media and culture at large, particularly advertising. This was the heyday of the post-war boom years in the US, when everyone was buying homes, cars and what-will-they-think-of-next machines like toasters and dishwashers. In 1957, Hamilton wrote what pop art was for him:

"Popular (designed for a mass audience); transient (short-term solution); expendable (easily forgotten); low cost; mass produced; young (aimed at youth); witty; sexy; gimmicky; glamorous; and last but not least, Big Business." [Quoted in History of Collage by Eddie Wolfram, p. 159]

My own collages are filled with images from popular culture, but I'm not trying make statements about pop culture nor embrace it; I use popular images and symbols as fodder to explore an interior realm.

Hamilton's collage was first exhibited in a famous London exhibit called "This is Tomorrow." It's considered the first bona fide pop art work. It features a photograph of a radio with an actual sound source installed behind it. Hamilton's collage resembles my own in the sense that it's representational: it depicts a scene (a living room); whereas earlier collages such as Hannah Höch's and Tatlin are more abstract and fragmented. I find myself also drawn to interiors—for example: Couch, Salon, Control Room and Red Room.

Digital art is "pop" in a significant way which Hamilton's piece is not: it can be mass-produced. Despite Hamilton's love of mass markets, his collage is still bound to its singular manifestation as a material object. With digital art, the stream of ones and zeroes is the art. Every copy is identical. Every copy is the original. This is art as information. Art as pure idea. The digital medium turns the economics of art upside-down: Supply is infinite. Price drops to zero. Art becomes... free.


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