Since the end of the 1990s, Patrick Hamilton’s (1974) work has followed a conceptual line, organized around the reflection about and the questioning of the concepts of work, economy, and history in the context of the past few decades in Chile, over the period known as post-dictatorship.
In El ladrillo (The Brick), after deep analysis of the economic policy book of the same name that established the free-market guidelines implemented in Chile during the military dictatorship, Hamilton questions the politico-economic model imposed by Augusto Pinochet, reflecting upon its cultural and social impact in the following years. The book El ladrillo was written at the beginning of the 1970s by a group of Chilean economists who were students of the controverted Nobel Prize in Economics, Milton Friedman (1912-2006), at the University of Chicago, after which they became known as the “Chicago Boys”. In it, radical economic measures are proposed as an antidote that would cure Chilean society from the socialist dream, such as the total opening of markets, the lowering of customs and taxes, reduction of public expenditure and the promotion of goods and services privatization.
In the works exhibited there exist references to economic and social history, to collective memory and to artistic movements like Russian Constructivism, Neoplasticism, Latin American Conceptual Art from the 1970s and 1980s, Minimalism and Arte Povera. In keeping the coherence of his criticism of politics and economics, Hamilton works with simple materials and objects proper to the building and bricklaying sector, such as saws, gloves, bricks, and sandpaper, in order to create –poetically– simple compositions. Simultaneously, the artist reformulates the understanding of concepts like balance/unbalance, equality/inequality, regulation/deregulation, and individual/community.
The exhibition is composed by three series. The first, Abrasive Paintings, are works that, in the style of collages with sandpaper, canvas, acrylic, and varnish, appeal to the perceptual conjunction of the materials’ roughness and the smoothness of their visuality. As paintings, they develop an abstractionism whose patterns are sourced upon industrial everyday life, where grids move between utilitarian and aesthetic value, massively deployed in all sorts of urban settings. These simultaneous states allow mobilization of an innocent appearance towards confrontation with spectators, inasmuch as the rationality of the design masks the aggressiveness of the material without hiding it: those urban settings exert many kinds of eminently visible violence, but their disruption appears as smoothness. In other words, the series returns to abstraction the Constructivist character in which a work is not separated from reality, but delves deeper into it.
Sculptures with Tools
Sculptures with Tools work like memorials of the (unfinished) de-industrialization promoted by neoliberalism on a global level since its first implementations in the 1970s. The objects from which the abstract, angular compositions are built have a dual function regarding aesthetics: they are the materials of industrial labor and at the same time they represent the world of serial production, its repetitions and regular rhythms. As remnants of a common culture (Serruchos) and as monuments to labor power (Columnas), these sculptures bear the colors of the libertarian socialism flag. Popularized by anarcho-syndicalists in the Spanish Civil War, its design is recovered here as a visual pattern that turns every brick into an insignia and the saws into a source of inspiration to prevent forgetfulness about the historical struggles that the dismantling of industrial memory attempts to hide.
The Chicago Boys Project (La mano invisible)
Finally, The Chicago Boys Project (La mano invisible) is a series of installations built from printed pages in red paper, of letters, photographies, magazine covers and books related to the history of neoliberalism in Chile. Accompanied by thick black gloves suspended from fake gold chains, the images are articulated in an ordered and symmetric pattern over wooden frames, an archival rationalization of state violence enacted in the name of the free market. The rhythm of this history as a system is destabilized by the particularities of the gloves and their irruption upon the printed pages; the ethereal and smooth connections implied in Adam Smith’s concept of the invisible hand are revealed as moments of brute force, reconfiguring the artwork in the style of murals of criminal evidence.
The 1973 military coup did not mark the beginning of ideological relief for Chileans but the other way around […]. Under the protection of the army and most directly of Pinochet, a group of intellectuals settled in the State’s institutions detonated the most extreme ideological adventure of the century, marking the most fervent point of ideological inflation in Chile. The “Chicago Model”, as the ideology was known, attempted to impose, from a militarized and authoritarian State, an individualistic philosophy that proposed, this time around, a “new man” that maximized utilities and acted within a social space determined by the laws of the free and competitive market.
Juan Gabriel Valdés, La escuela de Chicago: operación Chile
The work of Patrick Hamilton, who studied art at the University of Chile, is characterized by a political interest that promotes the return of the social to abstractionism and conceptual art. With clear references to the 20th century avant-gardes, the artist develops a critique in which the economy of visual language allows him to more strongly present certain incisive ideas without the need for narrative.
The Abrasive Paintings, for instance, are made with black, red, yellow or white-colored sandpaper, with which the artist makes geometric patterns, almost always rectangular, alluding to bricks. A design which first appears innocuous hides an aggressive materiality, in a way that contrasts the “coldness” and simplicity of rational design with a strongly emotional base. More widely, Hamilton seeks to make connections between these sorts of clashes and the contexts of the countries to which he holds personal links, be that Spain or Chile, referring to their social problems and their historical roots.
Thus, through distinct media, from painting to urban interventions, Hamilton centers his reflections upon the analysis of social and political tensions.
The artist currently lives and works between Madrid, Spain, and Santiago, Chile.