PHILLIP J. HAMPTON (1922-2016)
African American artist and educator Phillip Hampton was born in 1922 and studied art at Drake University and the Kansas City Art Institute. In 1952, he began teaching at Savannah State College and was instrumental in developing their program in art and design. By 1969, Hampton had relocated to Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, IL where he taught classes in printmaking, design, and painting. In each locale, he extended his reach to the community at large by teaching workshops, giving lectures, and writing articles.
During his tenure in Savannah, Hampton focused on figurative work and street scenes painted locally. In the 1960’s he began to explore abstraction, where he found that he was allowed to address the philosophical without the typical representational constraints. He continues to approach art in this way, inspired by the self-imposed question, “What is reality, and what makes reality real?”.
Hampton takes a scientific approach in examining various types of media and their properties. In the essay accompanying his solo exhibition of works at the Sheldon Art Galleries, Olivia Lahs-Gonzales describes the innovative techniques Hampton has used in his artwork and how they evolved for him through study and application. His goal was to combine these new techniques with socio-cultural research to create a new visual language that could be related to current issues. “One of the most ambitious applications of this idea,” Gonzales writes, “culminated in the multimedia polyptich work of 1980, Funky Rainbow Series. The ambitious work, a combination of media and techniques that included collage, drawing, decal, painting, and shaped, printed Plexiglass, was a four-panel piece devised to swivel, fold, and tuck beautifully into a special box when not fully unfurled and on display.”
From 1950, Hampton’s work was exhibited extensively at venues such as the Smith-Mason Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Howard University, Washington D.C.; Atlanta University; Lincoln University, Jefferson City, MO; Telfair Academy, Savannah, GA; Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL; Mid America Galleries, Kansas City, MO; A & M University, Alabama; Huntsville Museum of Art, Alabama, and the National Watercolor & Print Exhibition, Knoxville, TN.
Most recently, a solo exhibition of his work titled, “A Celebration of Vision: The Art of Phillip Hampton,” was held at the Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis, MO in 2005. Hampton was also one of three artists featured in the 2008 exhibition, “African American Abstraction: St. Louis Connections,” at the Saint Louis Art Museum.