Kent State, 1970
Accepting an offer to teach at his old alma mater, Hamilton mentored a number of students during the late 1950s, including Peter Blake and David Hockney. Through mutual friends, Hamilton was introduced to Paul McCartney, and subsequently produced the cover art for The Beatles’ White Album (1968). Over the following decades, Hamilton focused on producing prints as well as incorporating new technologies, such as computer software, into his practice.
One of several Hasselbad transparencies showed a student, Dean Kahler, caught in the gunfire, lying on a road with his head inclined towards the viewer. In a later interview Hamilton said, 'The clearest thing about it was that it was degraded...The television image of Kent State had already been translated through so many different projections and re-assimilations by other devices, that it had been considerably degraded. But I prefer to think of it as simply being changed since that avoids making a value judgement. You're changing it into something else, but every factor of the change is the result of a precise filter, so to speak. Each change is related in a very harmonious way to whatever has happened to it. In spite of the many transmogrifications, what is left always has a kind of validity. So every change that I have made, so long as my hand didn’t come into it, and as long as I didn't tamper with it in a physical way, had its own authenticity, too. The authenticity of the image is preserved because Hamilton continued to use only photographic- in a sense objective- means to change it. Through the rounded corners and broad marring on the right-hand side, the print makes it explicit that the source material was a television picture. As Hamilton himself points out, the original context that he wrote describing with painstaking accuracy the production of this screenprint makes not a single mention of the terrible events themselves. This utterly detached description simulated the working of the incorruptible eye of the camera, which seems much more ominous than a sentimental litany of personal outrage.
From, Richard Hamilton, Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, Kunstmuseum Winterthur/ Richter Verlag Dusseldorf, 2002
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