By virtue of more than 250 works produced between 1949 and 2011, this exhibition offers a comprehensive retrospective look at the work of Richard Hamilton (London, 1922 – 2011), a key figure in Pop Art and one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. It demonstrates how the artist was able to construct an incisive and multifaceted iconographic discourse that, via its playful and ironic veneer, set forth a critical reflection – not free from a certain degree of fascination – on consumer society and contemporary media imagery, at the same time as it explored and spilled over into the limits between the popular and the cult, the natural and the artificial, the figurative and the abstract.
The exhibition was the last project Hamilton directly participated in and illustrates the array of mediums, genres and themes the artist employed and approached over the course of his career: from photography, drawing and prints, to industrial design, advertising and the digital manipulation of images; from portrait, self-portrait and interiors, to metalinguistic investigations – for instance on the limitations of different forms of representation and the relationship between vision and movement – via a political critique and a reflection on consumerism and mass culture.
The exhibition also analyses the role appropriation and the recontextualisation of pre-existing images played in his artistic practices, in addition to the dialogue many of Hamilton’s works established with other creators’ work. Thus, special attention is paid to the influence of Marcel Duchamp on his work, an artist that was a perpetual reference point, with Hamilton even reconstructing one of his most emblematic pieces: The Large Glass.
Divided into fourteen sections, which are nuanced but follow a certain chronological order, the exhibit features Richard Hamilton’s most widely recognised works, the cover of the Beatles’ album cover, popularly known as the "White Album"; and his controversial pictorial-photographic series Swingeing London 67 and My Marilyn. Moreover, a number of the exhibition installations Hamilton designed (and actively participated in) have been recreated: Growth and Form, Man Machine and Motion, Fun House and an Exhibit.
Reina Sofia Museum's Publications