From August 31 through November 3, 2002, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an installation by Richard Hamilton (b. 1922), a leading figure in the British Pop Art movement whose intense dialogue with Marcel Duchamp’s ideas and working processes led him to complete a replica of the artist’s most important work, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). In this sixth in a series of Museum Studies installations by living artists created specifically for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Hamilton has produced an elegant, computer-generated diagram of Duchamp’s Large Glass, over which he has superimposed the English translations of the artist’s working notes, so that each painted element is reunited with the written ideas that preceded it.
Typo/Topography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass (2001-02) will be hung in the Museum’s Duchamp Gallery (182) adjacent to the Large Glass itself, providing visitors with the unique opportunity to see Duchamp’s intricate thought-processes at work, and discover the mystery and complexity of his ‘magnum opus.’
Hamilton’s obsession with Duchamp’s intellectual process began in the 1960s. He published two major translations in English of the artist’s notes and studies, and executed (at long distance but under Duchamp’s guidance) a painstakingly accurate, full-size replica of the Large Glass, which stood in for the original, fragile work in Philadelphia at the Duchamp retrospective exhibition that he organized for the Tate Gallery in London in 1966. Now 80 years old, Hamilton continues to share Duchamp’s fascination for language, eroticism, and how things function, whether organic or mechanical.
"We are delighted that Richard Hamilton will present his most recent, inspired research into Marcel Duchamp’s art and thought in this wonderful project for the Museum, home to the largest collection of Duchamp’s work in the world," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Having arranged the notes on the map according to their designated areas on the Glass, Hamilton’s remarkable diagrammatic interpretation allows us to traverse the mysterious terrain of Duchamp’s two glass panels with an impeccable guide, thus opening up the work for new levels of understanding and enjoyment."
Occupying the spot in the Museum that the artist selected for it in 1954, the endlessly enigmatic Large Glass dominates the Duchamp Gallery, where it continues to surprise and delight the visitors who gaze at and through its transparent surface. "A marriage of typography and topography, Hamilton’s computer-generated image of the Large Glass fulfills at last Duchamp’s stated desire to create a work of art that could only be understood through the conjunction of word and image, in order to prevent purely esthetic responses to it," said Michael Taylor, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and organizer of the installation.
To fully appreciate the Large Glass, the viewer had previously to consult the artist’s numerous notes and sketches, which had been reproduced in facsimile editions in Duchamp’s lifetime, and are on view in Gallery 182. Since these notes, mostly written in his native French, were published loose in boxes with no preconceived order, the task of interpreting the Large Glass was always as elusive, perhaps, as the bachelors’ quest for the bride stripped bare.
The Hamilton installation is accompanied by the publication of a limited-edition print of Typo/Topography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass. Modeled on a fold-up road map, the print will be available in the Museum Store, by calling (800) 329-4856, or by visiting the Museum’s Online Store at www.philamuseum.org.
Hamilton’s Attic (1995), a computer-generated work from the Museum’s collection, will also be on view in the Museum during the run of the exhibition. The work includes a study known as Sieves that the artist made in 1965 while working on his reconstruction of Large Glass. One of the most influential British 20th-century artists, Hamilton was a pioneer in the Pop-Art movement. His works comment on contemporary life, politics, literature and popular culture. He studied at the Royal Academy in London, served as an engineering draughtsman in the army during World War II then resumed his studies at the Slade School of Art. He has been honored with three retrospectives at the Tate Gallery. A lifelong fan of James Joyce’s modernist epic Ulysses, Hamilton spent decades creating illustrations based on the novel’s themes. His work was recently the subject of the exhibition, Imaging Ulysses: Richard Hamilton's Illustrations to James Joyce, at the British Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
Inaugurated in 1993, the Museum Studies program invites contemporary artists to create works that engage various aspects of the Museum. Previous initiatives were developed by artists Gabriel Orozco, Sherrie Levine, Lawrence Weiner, Richard Long, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.