Richard Hamilton at the ICA

Richard Hamilton at the ICA

‘During the 1950s, the ICA stood apart from a more conventional London art scene, offering Richard Hamilton an opportunity to curate pioneering exhibitions and participate in experimental events organised by the Independent Group, of which he was a key member.

Two installations created by Hamilton for the ICA’s previous premises at 17-18 Dover Street nearly sixty years ago have been recreated to coincide with Tate Modern’s Hamilton retrospective.

Archive material relating to Man, Machine and Motion (1955) and an Exhibit (1957), as well as other exhibitions that Richard Hamilton organised for the ICA during the 1950s and the early 1960s is also presented in the Upper Gallery of the ICA, providing a rare insight into the development and realisation of these projects. With subjects ranging from the life and work of author James Joyce, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s 1917 book On Growth and Form and the work of the subversive French artist Francis Picabia, they reflect the extraordinary breadth of Hamilton’s curatorial and conceptual interests, and indicate the lifelong influence these subjects had on his own work. Nearly all of the projects were collaborative efforts, and since Hamilton was teaching at this time at the University of Newcastle, exhibitions were often first presented there, at the Hatton Gallery, before being brought to the ICA, then at 17-18 Dover Street.

Hamilton was strongly influenced by early twentieth century developments in art and design that had mainly taken place outside of Britain. These included the radical theories and display experiments of Surrealist and Dada artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Picabia, the Modernist design principles of Bauhaus and the architecture of Le Corbusier, which was premised on geometric modular systems. His wartime training in technical engineering drawing as well as his service as a ‘jig and tool’ draftsman at the Design Unit Group during the war also resonated throughout his practice and exhibition design. In the post-war era he was an avid follower of new developments in art and design technology, looking to new techniques for visual communication and commercial design being developed in America and Britain.

Richard Hamilton was born in London in 1922. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and Slade School of Art, and went on to teach at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He represented Britain in the 1993 Venice Biennale and his work is held in major public and private collections around the world.’


An Exhibit Richard Hamilton


The ICA, in partnership, has recreated two of the walk-through installations Hamilton made for the institute in the 1950s. One is a maze of hoardings pasted with photographs of bicycles, biplanes, helicopters and racing cars – the universal urge to fly; a collage in the making, you might say. The other is a hanging garden of Perspex sheets suspended from the ceiling, something like a three dimensional Mondrian; a collage disassembled. It was an icebreaker in its day, no objects, no images, justAn Exhibit (its title) to make your own; yet it feels spacey and blank. Maybe you had to be there.’ Review from here

I agree – it felt very underwhelming, but I would be massively surprised if it had the same impact as it did then because it would have meant we hadn’t evolved from that at all. I guess he was making work for the present (which isn’t a bad thing) so it was interesting at the time – but isn’t timeless. It did give me some good ideas/inspiration about possible set up’s for my degree show piece, regarding the hanging of the perspex sheets.





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