Assignment 1, review by Rakhim Davletkaliyev.
Object of review: Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? by English artist Richard Hamilton.
Even a quick look at the picture gives us a lot of details to consider. Let us begin exploring this piece of pop art on the first level, level of natural subject matter (according to Panofsky's Three Strata of Subject Matter).
This picture is definitely a collage, and author does not try to make it look like something else. Pieces of different images and photos are assembled together, some of them are in colour, some are black and white. It is a room with three sofas, coffee table, television set and an old-fashion (probably, 40s-50s) portable player/recorder. In the center there is a man (here and later on when I say about something or someone I really mean an image of something or someone placed into collage), who looks and stands like bodybuilder. He only wears his shorts and holds a huge popsicle in his right hand. Corner of the orange sofa and the portable recorder are around his legs.
On the right side of the image naked woman sits on another sofa, holding her breast with one hand and her head with another. She wears some strange-looking hat, I think it is a lampshade. Woman looks like classic «hottie» of 50s. The TV behind her shows another example of beauty: a woman talking on telephone. On the other side of the room there are stairs and another woman cleaning the upper level with retro-futuristic vacuum cleaner. There is also a sign, an arrow half-way up showing how far ordinary cleaners can reach. Empty sofa with the table and the lamp are under these stairs. The wall without a window holds the old poster and a picture in the frame. Big windows have no curtains so we see a scene from middle XX century as we used to see it: as a black and white photograph. Room has no ceiling, instead there is blackness outside and lower part of some big sphere that looks like a planet. Absence of ceiling makes the picture look like someone actually put different pieces in a box and took a photo of them.
Even though the image is a collage, parts that the image is made of are placed with the right proportion, which makes it look as an actual three-dimensional scene.
At this level of pure form the picture makes almost no sense at all. Let us try to move to the second level and use our cultural and historical knowledge to analyze the scene. If on the first level we could say that pieces of this collage are not related to each other and placed almost randomly, on the level two it is becoming clear that those parts are related to each other. Looks like they're all taken from popular North American magazines of 50s-60s. We can recognize the style of the room as a base for this image. It looks solid, so I assume the room was brought here from housing or furniture advertisement. There are advertisements everywhere: vacuum cleaner with extra long pipe, which is marked with comparison arrow and a popular form of persuasion «ordinary X is only this good, our X is that good!», poster on the wall (I can't see well what's it about, but it might be some kind of ad), some product on the table, lights of a theater in the window… The whole scene says how beautiful and simple life can be.
It looks like the woman with the vacuum cleaner was on the base picture of a room, so let's move to black and white images of the bodybuilder and the lady on the sofa. They also look like attributes of a perfect world: a big strong man and a slim naked woman with languishing eyes. Suddenly the whole picture starts to make sense! It might show us how the perfect world would look like if everything that ads and media are feeding people with became true. But it isn't true, it cannot be true, and the format of collage supports this idea.
One of the important details, I think, is the big popsicle bodybuilder holds in his hand. It has a label «POP», which can be just an obvious label for this sweet. It also can refer to pop culture and, therefore, to pop art. In that case the meaning is hiding in the loop: an example of pop art shows the word «pop» on the product of pop culture. And the popular culture was created by media, pieces of which were used to create this example of pop art. Personally, I suppose that if the meaning is hiding in an infinite loop, then the loop becomes the meaning.