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Attic

Richard Hamilton, English, 1922 - 2011

Date:
1995

Medium:
Computer-printed transparency, mounted on canvas

Dimensions:
48 inches x 8 feet (121.9 x 243.8 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

Curatorial Department:
Contemporary Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1997-44-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by the Committee on Twentieth-Century Art, with additional funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Keith L. Sachs, The Dietrich American Foundation, and Marion Boulton Stroud, 1997

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One of the most innovative and influential artists of our time, Richard Hamilton is considered the founder of the British Pop Art movement, which appropriated commercial devices of consumer culture, such as the look and language of advertising, in order to critique them. Hamilton was also a leading member of the Independent Group, an ideological gathering of artists and thinkers who held meetings in London starting in 1952 to question prevailing artistic attitudes toward contemporary visual culture.

Here, in this computer-generated painting, Hamilton uses technology to create a new form of collage. Attic unites themes that have preoccupied the artist throughout his career by including signature references to the artistic and domestic realms: the top floor of Hamilton’s house, the gallery of his former dealer in London, a study of Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass, a photograph of German artist Joseph Beuys, and Hamilton’s 1995–96 painting Ghosts of Ufa as the image on the television.

Hamilton’s incorporation of contemporary design objects and works of art already in existence reflect his interest in Marcel Duchamp’s notion of the readymade (a commonplace object raised to the status of a work of art). Hamilton had long been fascinated by the work and ideas of Duchamp, who was also a friend. The two shared a playful interest in language, humor, and eroticism, as well as the need to question the relevance and possibilities of painting.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    In his computer-generated painting Attic, Hamilton employed state-of-the-art technology to create a new form of collage, replacing the old scissors-and-paste method with the Quantel Paintbox, which is used by television stations to produce computer graphics. The Paintbox allows the artist to word-process with images scanned into a Macintosh computer, in this case using color transparencies of the top floor of Hamilton's house and black-and-white photographs of the Anthony d'Offay Gallery in London, where his work is shown. The artist conflates domestic and commercial spaces in the electronically manipulated painting by "hanging" the image of his attic on the simulated gallery wall so that the painting could be seen to represent the space it inhabited.

    Attic brings together many of the themes and images that have preoccupied Hamilton over the course of his long career. The black-and-white painting hanging on the wall to the left is a work of 1966 entitled People. The subject is an enlarged detail from a picture postcard of a heavily populated beach at Whitley Bay, a seaside town in the north of England. Below this picture, placed on the floor, is a study known as Sieves that the artist made in 1965 while working on a reconstruction of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass. Hamilton shares Duchamp's ironic, cerebral outlook and is an authority on his work, having organized the artist's retrospective exhibition at London's Tate Gallery in 1966. The only human presence in the otherwise unpopulated room appears in the form of Lord Snowdon's photograph, seen on the far right, of the German artist Joseph Beuys, who had been a friend and collaborator of Hamilton's. Finally, the vacuum cleaner that "hugs the rug closer here" continues the artist's interest in the erotic overtones of domestic appliances and advertising while also alluding in a characteristically witty way to the obsessive neatness of Hamilton's living space. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 145.

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