Sunday, April 4, 2010

Different Messages to Different Audiences


I was recently introduced to Richard Hamilton's artwork. Hamilton is said to be the founder of pop art. This print was created for a show honoring Marilyn Monroe shortly following her death. The markings on the photographs were actually made by Marilyn. She proofed every photo shoot personally before forwarding the photographs for publication. The photos were taken by George Barris.
Even postmortem, Monroe was criticized by Hamilton for these actions. It is understandable that such a strong social figure would not want misleading or unflattering pictures circulating publications, but isn't that the job of the art editor? Hamilton was able to obtain these proofs and then comment on the parallel of Monroe's death and the self-destructive nature of placing "X's" over her face on images she was not happy with. At the time of this show, and with the overall theme to be an homage to Monroe, Hamilton was able to ridicule her life, and death in this series of prints.
Matt Groening also takes advantage of his opportunities to ridicule numerous celebrities and political situations in both his shows, The Simpsons and Futurama. These shows can be appreciated for their thoughtless humor alone, but the inclusion of discrete comments on current political and social events puts the shows over the top and surprisingly intellectual. Groening's intelligence is shown by the fact he is able to create a television show for knowledgeable and ignorant audiences with success. Hamilton's Marilyn Monroe prints offer a similar dichotomy. Without knowing the backstory of Monroe's obsession with proofing photographs and how she died, the prints are still interesting for the use of overprinting and color in the composition. But with the understanding of Monroe, there becomes a greater meaning in Hamilton's work, and further increases interest, at least for me.

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