Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

$he(1958) - Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton, $he(1958), 1982, cellotype and screenprint on paper, 384 x 280 mm, Tate.

Over twenty years after producing the original work that I looked at last week, Hamilton returned to $he for this print.  I'm not sure why he did this, but for me it epitomizes what had happened to the perception of pop art in the intervening years.  Any critical edge it may once had was now blunted by over-familiarity.  It wasn't so much that people couldn't see it, it's just that it no longer had the power to bother them.  In fact, it had been reduced to nostalgia, something along the lines of: 'Do you remember when all those artists told us that our consumer culture was a hollow lie, draining our lives of any spiritual content and reducing us to mindless automatons?  Ah, good times.'  The dissolving cyborg figure of the original looking out of us with a single eye, pleading for help, is here replaced by a smiling doll.  The conversion process is complete.

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