Lot 19
  • 19

Richard Hamilton

Estimate
300,000 - 400,000 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Richard Hamilton
  • Epiphany
  • signed and numbered 8/12 on a label affixed to the reverse
  • cellulose on painted spun aluminium

Provenance

Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati
Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1998

Literature

Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hanover Gallery, Richard Hamilton Paintings etc. '56-64, 1964, n.p., no. 25, illustration the earlier example in colour on the cover
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Gallery, Richard Hamilton, 1970, p. 47, no. 69, illustration of the earlier example
Richard Hamilton, Richard Hamilton, Collected Works 1953-1982, London 1982, p. 54, illustration of the earlier example
Exhibition Catalogue, Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Richard Hamilton, 1990, p. 78, no. 70, illustration of another example
Exhibition Catalogue, London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Richard Hamilton, 1991, p. 69, no. 40, illustration of another example and illustrated on the end page
Exhibition Catalogue, Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Richard Hamilton Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, 2002, p. 277, no. M12, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Dickinson, Richard Hamilton, 2006, pp. 58-59 & p. 67, no. 20, illustration of another example in colour

Catalogue Note

Initially conceived at the very peak of the Pop Art revolution, Epiphany is one of the most iconic works executed by Richard Hamilton, the man whose text on a bodybuilder's lollypop in the groundbreaking 1956 collage Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? gave Pop its name. Appropriating a mass-produced lapel badge emblazoned with the slogan 'Slip It To Me', this painted disc's dramatic enlargement turns a discreet maxim into an inescapable announcement in the searing complimentary colours of blue and orange. Brilliantly uniting the cornerstones of the artist's work; from an inimitable Pop aesthetic, to the incorporation of the readymade, to his multilayered pithy witticism, Epiphany is ubiquitously recognised as seminal to the development of Hamilton's art. Thus it is central to his unfailingly innovative artistic commentary on contemporary life, the importance of which to the evolution of Pop Art should not be underestimated. Indeed David Sylvester has even declared that "Defining Hamilton as the founder or father or grandfather of British Pop diminishes him" (David Sylvester in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Richard Hamilton, 1991, p. 9).

In 1963 the artist visited America for the first time, principally to attend the world's first retrospective exhibition of the work of his hero Marcel Duchamp, which was being held at the Pasadena Art Museum. During his stay Irving Blum, the young dealer who ran the Ferus Gallery, took Hamilton to a local cultural landmark of Venice, Los Angeles: a seedy joke shop in Pacific Ocean Park (POP). It was in this shop that they found by chance the badge lacquered with the instruction 'Slip It To Me'.

On his return to the UK the tiny metal button served as the catalyst for Hamilton to create a wooden painted disc that perfectly replicated the badge but magnified its size to over one metre in diameter, a work which has since resided in the artist's own collection. In the catalogue for the first major exhibition of this Epiphany in London in 1964, the artist admitted a dialogue of transatlantic influence: "One result of a visit to the US in Oct 63 was to gain a first-hand knowledge of the work of such painters as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Dine, Rosenquist and Oldenburg. The thing that impressed me was their throwaway attitude to Art – a point of view which the European with his long tradition of the seriousness of culture (not even Dada was that carefree) could hardly achieve. Epiphany is a souvenir of America...On my return it stood for much of what I had enjoyed in experiencing the States but it also summed up that which I most admired in American art, its audacity and wit" (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hanover Gallery, Richard Hamilton: Paintings etc. '56-64, October-November 1964, n.p.)

For Hamilton the audacious pun – ubiquitously recognised today and esoterically understood in the liberal 1960s as code for a sexual invitation - perfectly epitomised the daring subversion of contemporary American Pop Art. However, the creative invention of Epiphany is Hamilton's alone. The artist's choice of Epiphany as title relates to his life-long infatuation with the literary work of James Joyce, which began when he read Ulysses as a soldier in 1946. Joyce's protagonists, from Stephen Dedalus to Leopold Bloom, are frequently immersed in self-realisation, and Hamilton has sited his own catharsis in the shadow of Marcel Duchamp: "if a sudden epiphany hit Marcel Duchamp when he picked up a bicycle wheel and put it through a hole in the top of a kitchen stool in 1913, I experienced such a moment of understanding when I encountered a large button in a seedy gift shop in Pacific Ocean Park, Venice, California, with the words SLIP IT TO ME blatantly displayed across it" (the artist in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, British Museum, Imaging Ulysses, 2002). The fact that the cover of the catalogue for the 1964 exhibition shows Hamilton holding Epiphany whilst standing next to Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel only serves to amplify the longevity of this acknowledgment.

Subsequent to the inception of Epiphany Hamilton decided to make a version in more durable aluminium, a material recognised at the time as ideal but too expensive to use when the idea was conceived. Rooted in a sophisticated and complex matrix of influence, the genius of Epiphany lies precisely in its simplicity. This hanging sculpture is the apotheosis of Hamilton's Pop aesthetic, whose development was the intercontinental mirror to the contemporaneous masterpieces of Warhol and Lichtenstein, as well as evoking Duchamp and Op Art through its shape and brilliant colour contrast.

 

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