The British Are Coming

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Plattsburgh State Art Museum
State University of New York College at Plattsburgh

Hamilton Proposes a Show of
Pop Art Before Pop Art Exists

16 January 1957

Dear Peter and Allison
I have been thinking about our conversation of the other evening and thought that it might be a good idea to get something on paper, as much to sort it out myself as to put a point of view to you.
Suppose we were to start with the objective of providing a unique solution to the specific requirements of a domestic environment e.g. some kind of shelter, some kind of equipment, some kind of art. This solution could then be rated on the basis of compliance with a table of characteristics of Pop Art.

Pop Art is;
Popular (designed for a mass audience)
Expendable (easily forgotten)
Low cost
Mass produced
Young (aimed at youth)
Big business

Letter to Peter and Allison Smithson, other members of the Independent Group, quoted from Richard Hamilton, Collected Works, London, 1982, p.28.
    Post-war Britain was slower to recover from World War II than the United States; Britain endured the hardships of food and commodity rationing well into the 1950ís. Paolozzi and Hamilton were among the first to explore the vision of plenty represented in American magazine advertising and the promise of science and technology offered by science fiction and fantasy magazines and movies. Indeed, Hamilton was the first to consider the automotive offerings of Detroit as psychosexual fantasy objects and to deal with objects of domestic consumption, such as toaster ovens and refrigerators, as icons of an idealized beauty. It was also Hamilton who first codified the qualities which would define Pop art in the now famous/often quoted list. (See sidebar) Both Hamilton and Paolozzi were from working class homes and both were students at the Slade School of Art. Hamiltonís studies there followed expulsion from the Royal Academy Schools. It was the ideas presented in meetings of the Independent Group and the artistic production of students at the Art Schools of postwar Britain that led to what, in essence, was a cultural revolution in Britain.
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(ARS), Permission for the reproduction of artwork courtesy of Artists Rights Society © 2006 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London.
(PSAM), Artwork from the permanent collection of Plattsburgh State Art Museum.
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