In 2010, Hammerstein wrote a book entitled “The Hammersteins – A Musical Theatre Family,” and he began lecturing. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hammerstein lectured every other month. But his bookings were usually done a year in advance, because when you’re a Hammerstein, you can’t just give a lecture, you must give a performance.
“The basic problem with my lectures was that someone would say, ‘well, we’re gonna put it to music,’” he says. “And then they’d say, ‘and we’ve got to get some singers, so we really should get some instruments. Actually, let’s get an orchestra.’ And because the orchestra needs six months to a year’s worth of lead time for rehearsal, I booked a year out. In general, I barely know what I’m doing in a year’s time. But I know I’m doing a lot.”
As we emerge from the pandemic, Hammerstein’s talks have slowly begun to resume. These lectures help support his career as an artist. And as a self-described introvert, they also give him an opportunity to step outside his shell.
“I get it all out of my system on one day,” he jokes. “All my socializing happens in one day, and then I’m back to being a hermit in my studio.”
During the past several years, Hammerstein has continued to paint his signature Sunspots, but he’s also begun a new series called Tempo Clash, inspired by his love of piano, which he plays every morning before he begins painting.
To do this, Hammerstein begins by painting a square from left to right, moving along through time. Then he explores what the basic rhythm would look like if he overlaid it with another rhythm that fit into the same space but was cut differently.
“Instead of eight to a bar, what if it was 15 to a bar, or seven to a bar,” he explains. “Then I’d look at what eight and 17 look like together. And usually, that makes this completely different pattern. Over time, I’ve figured out that you don’t want to use an odd number with an odd number because it’s too symmetrical. And you don’t want to use an even number with an even number because it’s too repetitive. So, you end up with juxtaposing an odd number with an even one. And that has yielded all my paintings.”
To the untrained eye, paintings in the Tempo Clash series may look like piano keys, but Hammerstein emphasizes that they’re not. They’re the visual representation of music.
“They’re very pleasant,” he describes. “And they actually vibrate when you look at them. Well, if I get lucky, they vibrate. They come off the page like some strange carnival act. But it works every time these days because I’ve started to really hone in on that aspect. You can pick pink and purple and there’s a small distance of where the colors can go, or you can pick orange and blue, and there’s a huge distance that the colors can go. So, you can be subtle, or you can be loud. And lately, I’ve been loud.”
It all goes back to ocular neurology and color theory – the two main influences of Hammerstein’s work. And yet, over time, they’ve translated into a very different series of work.
“These days I’m either painting space over time, as in looking at a sunset over a period of time and capturing the space of that sunset, or I’m doing time over space where I’m applying different rhythms to the same space and seeing what third pattern emerges. So, it’s time and space. It seems like a pretty bland artist’s statement, but that’s what interests me.”