Curatorial Art Practice in London
My interest in structure embraces a great many ideas that do not turn up in the things I make, nor are the objects I make conceived as having very much to do with either the conventional synthesis concept or any large-scale urbanistic conceptions […]
(Anthony Hill in conversation with Kenneth Frampton, published in Studio International, October 1966)
Anthony Hill was born in London in 1930. He studied at St. Martin’s School of Art (1947-1949) and at the Central School of Art (1949–1951), where he met Victor Pasmore and Robert Adams. As a student he primarily worked with painting and focused his research on Dada and Surrealism. In 1951 Hill began exchanging letters with Marcel Duchamp, Max Bill and Charles Biedeman. Though he started his artistic career looking at Miro, Klee, Nicholson and the Cubists, these new correspondents were to become strong influences for the artist.
1951 was also significant as Hill, with Kenneth and Mary Martin, Adrian Heath, Victor Pasmore, and Robert Adams began actively forming a group through which they could promote their common interest in Constructivism. Constructivism originated in Russia and sought to align art more fully with industrialisation through geometric abstraction. Though the English Constructionists were never a group in the formal sense of the word, they did exhibit together, influence and support each other, and publish several publications, such as Broadsheet (1951).
The group achieved quite a high level of success during those years, and their works were exhibited in several shows and events, including Abstract Paintings Sculptures Mobiles (A.I.A. Gallery, 1951), British Abstracts Arts (Gimpel Fils Gallery, 1951), the three exhibitions series at 22 Fitzroy Street (1952–1953), Nine Abstract Artists (Redfern Gallery, 1955) and This is Tomorrow (Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1956). Gillian Wise and Stephen Gilbert (at that time both represented by the Drian Gallery) did not join the group until 1961.
In 1953 Hill abandoned colour and worked almost exclusively in black and white. His works became streamlined and minimalist, and often featured a composition of black geometric shapes on a white background. As in his case, many of the Constructionists had already done the same in order to escape decoration and to make their work more precise, ordered and mechanical. This is seen, for example, in the studies for Loop-line (ink on paper, 1953) and for Catenary Rhythms (collage, 1953–1954), as well as the medium sized Progression of Rectangles (emulsion on canvas, 1953).
Hill continued to work in paint until 1956, at which point he began experimenting with relief. Transparent and opaque plastic sheet; rubberised cloth; tape; silver, grey and black anodised aluminium; and other materials all appear on his canvases. In 1957 he actually gave up painting all together and dedicated himself to his relief works. By 1959 copper sheet, brass angle, zinc and stainless steel appear. These early relief works are composed of right angles and have strong vertical and horizontal emphasis.
In 1961 Hill organised Construction: England: 1950-60 at the Drian Gallery. This was to be the last group exhibition of the London Constructionists. The group members had achieved all they could together and no longer needed to depend on one another in the way they once had.
The following decades were a time of great artistic success and prolific work. By the beginning of the 1960s Hill had generated a strong interest in mathematics and made more conscious efforts to incorporate mathematical values into his art. Though his mathematical research took up an increasing amount of time during this decade, it was also a time of great artistic success for Hill. He exhibited in several major group exhibitions, had three solo shows, and contributed articles to important journals and publications. In addition, the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Stuyvesant Foundation, the Kroller Muller Museum and a number of private collectors all purchased Hill’s works. He edited the anthology Directions in Art, Theory, and Aesthetics (DATA) (Faber and Faber 1968) and the Duchamp anthology Duchamp: Passim (Gordon and Breach, 1994).
In 1970 Hill made the first construction of his Co-structures series, featuring freestanding geometric constructions made from various materials. In 1973-1974 he created the alter ego ‘Achill Redo’, under which he returned to his earlier interests in Dada and Surrealism, and created collage works that would otherwise have been seen as a major departure from his traditional work. Under this light, the Tate Gallery Collection keeps Anthony Hill and Achill Redo separate in their archives.