Toward the end of 2017, The Frederick Hammersley Foundation donated to the Art Division of the Museum of Texas Tech thirteen artworks by the Foundation’s namesake, including one painting, three computer drawings, six prints, and three drawings. Then in 2018 the Foundation donated three additional lithographs. These artworks span 1963 to 1980. Prior to these gifts, the AP/RC had no work by Hammersley in its collection.
The computer drawings (A Good Line Is Hard to Beat, Up and Down with a Stick, and The Same Change) were all created in 1969, the year that Hammersley moved from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Soon after moving, the artist took a computer class and began to arrange characters on punch cards that ultimately created complex geometries of lights and darks printed on continuous feeds of paper inching through an impact printer. At this time the means of soliciting digital commands from a computer was by punching small rectangular holes in cards, a labor intensive activity that often resulted in card readers jamming and destroying hours of tedious work, which required restarting the process.
Also among the prints in this gift from the Hammersley Foundation are seven lithographs and two screen prints. Covenant (1963) includes two vertical tablets shaped like those of the Ten Commandments placed side by side so that the white line separating them pulsates. Seedling (1967) corresponds with the artist’s geometric paintings featuring a reduced palette and juxtaposed shapes that create a perceptual puzzle, in this case one that suggest both cellular division and a yin/yang design. Four 1973 lithographs (almost from the edition as well as a trial proof and an artist proof, and seems) were printed at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque. Patterns of light dots over the dark surface is akin to graphic images of interference. Also from 1973 are three lithographs printed at Tamarind, Family #1, #2, and #3.
The thee drawings are all figurative, pencil and ink on paper. And the painting, Ebb tied (1978) is one of Hammersley’s classic visual conundrums that rebel against an easy determination of just what is where in his puzzling space…a bit of sensory tickling.