As part of this retrospective, two of Hamilton’s exhibitions from the 1950s – Man, Machine and Motion and an Exhibit – are on display at the ICA on the Mall.
In 1952, Hamilton became a founding member of the Independent Group, a collection of artists, architects, designers and critics who met regularly at the ICA to discuss subjects relating to contemporary popular culture. Hamilton helped to organise the exhibition Wonder and Horror of the Human Head there in 1953. The venue also hosted Parallel of Life and Art, organised by Independent Group members Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter and Alison Smithson.
In 1955, Hamilton conceived the exhibition Man, Machine and Motion. He collected around two hundred photographs and reproductions of drawings showing vehicles and equipment that ‘extend the powers of the human body’, enabling aquatic, terrestrial, aerial and interplanetary movement. These were arranged in a modular steel grid with clips of Hamilton’s design, on horizontal and vertical planes so that a viewer could walk through and see images below and above them. The exhibition was mounted first at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle, and then at the ICA.
Two years later, working with the artist Victor Pasmore and the critic Lawrence Alloway, Hamilton re-visited the grid system used to display the photographs and created an installation of hanging sheets of clear and coloured acrylic. The installation was titled an Exhibit and conceived as ‘a game / an artwork / an environment’. This exhibition also premiered in Newcastle before being reconfigured at the ICA.