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CITIZEN HAMILTON: THE ART OF RICHARD HAMILTON

We rarely associate the Independent Group, much less Pop art, with political commitment, yet politics has been a persistent concern of Richard Hamilton’s work for fifty years. “Protest Pictures,” an exhibition on view at Inverleith House in Edinburgh from July 31 through October 12, gathers his key images concerning public issues—from the antinuclear movement and the Vietnam War, through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to the current disaster in Iraq. HAL FOSTER looks ahead to this survey of polemical works by the eighty-six-year-old master.

Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London 67 (c), 1968–69, oil on canvas and screenprint, 26 1⁄2 x 33 1⁄2".

THE INDEPENDENT GROUP, that extraordinary crew of young artists, architects, and critics in London in the early 1950s, sought a way between the Scylla of old modernist styles and the Charybdis of new mass-cultural images. To do so, it adopted a non-Aristotelian approach to its many objects of study—science and technology, architecture and design, popular culture and advertising—an approach that was neither satirical nor celebratory, but at once analytical and playful. It was this distinctive attitude that Richard Hamilton, a crucial member of the IG, carried forward when, following his famous little collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? produced in 1956 for the landmark “This Is Tomorrow” exhibition, he began his “tabular” pictures in the late ’50s.¹ This suite of paintings, still too little known, explores the emergent visual idioms

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