David Hockney at the de Young, Part 1

[ed. note:  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.

hockney-pearblossom-highwayDavid 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,  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.

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