The Hockney exhibit at the de Young museum in San Francisco,Â October 26, 2013 to January 20, 2014, was all about the ways Hockney sees and depicts the world. Hockney uses oils, watercolor, charcoal, digital devices, digitals printed huge on paper, depictions with camera obscura and video cameras — every currently available visual tool under his command. His ideas about depiction and his art as displayed at the de Young sometimes disagree, gently but firmly, with the given guidelines and notions painters and picture makers have been following for centuries. The explanations and discussion of Hockney’s ideas about space, time, and the picture plane have always fascinated me. But after my visit to the exhibit, it is the David Hockney landscape paintings and allied work that I am in love with. Continue reading
[ed. note:Â For the best photos of David Hockney’s work, check his official website which has both current work and paintings, etc. from the last ten years as well as those from throughout his long career.]
I have been a long-time admirer of David Hockney, although I’ll admit it was more an admiration of his thinking and observing than about his art, which I hadn’t seen in real life until January 15th, 2014.
I can’t remember the first time I encountered reproductions of Hockney’s work and thinking, but the one image that stands out clearly in my mind is of his collage of polaroid photos, Pear Blossom Highway, April 11-18, 1986.
In his polaroid “joiners,” Hockny took photos over time and space and then put them together to get the idea of what the subject looked like from different viewpoints and at different times.
David Hockney, Pear Blossom Highway, 11-18th April, 1986. Image taken from AIUS.com, where a full description of Hockney’s “joiners” can be found
Here’s Hockney’s description of Pearblossom Highway, the scene at a crossroads in which, as he says,Â there is “a very wide open space, which you only get a sense of in the western United States. . . . [The] picture was not just about a crossroads, but about us driving around. I’d had three days of driving and being the passenger. The driver and the passenger see the road in different ways. When you drive you read all the road signs, but when you’re the passenger, you don’t, you can decide to look where you want. And the picture dealt with that: on the right-hand side of the road it’s as if you’re the driver, reading traffic signs to tell you what to do and so on, and on the left-hand side it’s as if you’re a passenger going along the road more slowly, looking all around. So the picture is about driving without the car being in it.” (quotation from the Getty website).
Hockney’s work and talk and writing is all about how we “really” see, or better, how he really sees, as he changes viewpoints, or sits in a place for hours, or closes one eye or opens both eyes. He continues the Cubist tradition of collage art in his joiners; he says that our whole visual experience is a series of collages — that every instant that we see is collaged on top of the instant before, almost always from a different angle of vision, changing angles caused by eye and body movement which in turn changes memories and desires.
The project from hell is the one that has at least 27 more steps to it than initially envisioned, and each step consists of 1 step forward followed fairly quickly by 1.9999 (or sometimes 4.999999) back.
So, take 20 miles of a dry lake bed, Summer Lake, seen in September from a relatively inaccessible spot on Winter Ridge approximately 250 miles from home.
Then add in a decision to use cedar planks from an torn-down homestead from the Playa Art Residency compound as surfaces to paint the irresistible 20-mile panorama on.
[The pile of planks, fondly patted, until reality set in.]
Continue, on arriving back in Portland, with the questions of how much to sand the 2″ thick planks (after the initial grinding off the nubbins at Playa), with what to seal them (white gesso, clear gesso, linseed oil, Liquin), and what paints (acrylic, oil, transparent, opaque) wouldl use the wood grain most advantageously.