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Richard Hamilton: Image and Process

April 19–June 22, 1986

More than works in any other medium, prints enable a viewer to explore the creative process leading to a finished work of art. Successive stages of a print--working proofs, states, and pen-and-ink studies--permit us to follow the artist's thoughts and to scrutinize his working methods. The work of Richard Hamilton (born 1922), structured on the additive principle of collage, is particularly suited to such penetrating analysis, as demonstrated by this exhibition of eighteen images seen in various states of their development. In the artist's words, "The exhibition will, I hope, reveal something of the anxieties inherent in the slow alchemical processes as they move towards fulfillment when the image emerges from the press." Although Hamilton's images look so radically different from each other--no one technique, handwriting, subject, color, style, or visual system being purely Hamiltonian--several themes unify his work. First, in paraphrasing mass-media printed information, Hamilton shows an unorthodox fascination with machines as a means of creation: "From the tool and the weapon that first added to the natural power of the hand to the optical, electric and electronic inventions which now extend the range of the senses, they are the essential material of history." Always aware of a relationship between the hand mark and the machine mark, Hamilton often withholds the obvious appearance of his hand from a work and instead creates through the subtle manipulation of mechanical processes alone, such as photography or photo-silkscreen. Second, pursuing the theory of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) that everything embodies or evokes its opposite, Hamilton contrasts systems of thought or manners of reproduction. Each print makes different comparisons among visual marks, exploits different procedures, explores different spatial environments, and alludes to different styles in the history of art. Third, emulating Duchamp's painstaking methods of creation, Hamilton often makes prints of great technical sophistication and complexity. "As time goes by," he has said, "I become increasingly aware of the irrelevance of making a distinction between one medium and another, or one process and another, or even one style and another." Renowned for his innovative and masterly use of modern image-making methods, Hamilton has created some of the most notable works of modern print making: My Marilyn, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, and Picasso's meninas. This exhibition was organized by Waddington Graphics, London, and Richard S. Field, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Yale University Art Gallery; the catalogue also was prepared by Dr. Field. The prints are from the artist's collection or Waddington Graphics. The exhibition is supported in Philadelphia by a grant from The Pew Memorial Trust.

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Dr. Richard S. Field
Ellen S. Jacobowitz

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