On Richard Hamilton

Hal Foster

Richard Hamilton, who died on 13 September at the age of 89, invented the idea of Pop art, along with his colleagues in the Independent Group, more than 50 years ago. In ‘Persuading Image’, a lecture he gave in 1959, Hamilton argued, well before it was a commonplace, that consumer society depends on the manufacturing of desire through design, forever updated by the forced obsolescence of style. ‘Is it me?’ he wrote, mimicking the adman mimicking the customer: ‘The appliance is “designed with you in mind”.’ His ‘tabular pictures’, a central contribution to Pop painting, work over this interpellation of people by images, indeed as images, and they do so in a meticulous manner that shimmers between the analytical and the fetishistic. Today our life as homo imago seems almost natural, each of us, as Hamilton forecast, a ‘specialist in the look of things’, designer and designed in one.

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