Phillip Hampton’s experimentation with acrylic media demonstrates thin line between art and science (yet again!)

(Phillip Hampton’s work is honored at the St. Louis Art Museum’s African American Abstraction: St. Louis Connections.)

David Bonnetti at St. Louis says:
Philip Hampton, the fourth artist featured, is sort of odd-man out. Rather than developing here, he moved to the area an already established artist to teach at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The most radical artist of the bunch, Hampton pushes the limits of painting in works like “Glide-Path, Turn-Ons” from 1976, in which he poured a liquid acrylic emulsion over a gridded armature. Another work from the same year, a bright red abstraction, compares very favorably with color-field abstraction produced at the time. If Walker is looking for another work to acquire for the collection, that might be a good addition to his list.

At the art museum here’s what he shared with us–JGR


Phillip Hampton
Phillip Hampton

For Phillip Hampton, who taught painting-sculpture-design at Southern Illinois Unversity at Edwardsville, it’s been a journey of materials. Acrylic media first came out in 1954. Hampton bought 50 five-gallon cans and piled them in his basement, floor to ceiling.

“I had to find out what they DID.”

Initially the HA-25 acrylic media was sticky. When Hampton describes his experiments, we can tell that the line between art and science really is not all that fat. Hampton wrote back that it had to be polished with another media to avoid stickiness. He wrote the research firm in NYC that the media ought to last at least 400 years. “I figured that’s enough time.”

When the company figured out that artists could make their own paints using the media, they restricted its sale.

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