This week, David Hockney’s
new book Hockney’s
Pictures goes on sale in this country. Its been
out a little while in Europe and the moment I received
an advance copy of the book I knew I wanted to do
something to mark the occasion. I got to spend a
few days with Hockney a couple weeks ago in Hollywood
as I am helping produce an exhibition at Alison
Jacques gallery in London of Robert Mapplethorpe curated
by David Hockney opening January 14-March 12, 2005.
inclusion in the most recent Whitney Biennial seems
to have instigated a re-positioning of his place
in the art world today.
It's not that he hasn’t
had a prominent place before but that people interested
in his work seem to be coming from a wider and wider
field. One of his recent watercolors is on the cover
of this month’s Flash Art magazine and hot
artists of today such as Elizabeth Peyton count Hockney
as a big influence on their own work.
to r.: The invite for Robert Mapplethorpe curated
by David Hockney in London; David Hockney curating
Mapplethorpe's show with
Charlie Scheips at his Hollywood Hills studio. Photo:
was in London last year for his opening at Annely Juda that
came on the heels of news that he and Lucien Freud had
painted each other’s portraits. It was Hockney’s
first big show of the new watercolors and combined with the
Hockney/Freud news resulted in a jam-packed opening and front
cover stories in all the London newspapers for days on end.
Hockney’s portrait is a double portrait of Freud with his long time assistant
photographer and painter David Dawson. Freud’s is a revealing
impasto oil that required over 70 odd sittings that Hockney traveled by foot
to through Holland
Park to Freud’s nearby studio. Incidentally, Dawson’s paintings will
be featured in an exhibition at London’s Marlborough gallery opening on
David Hockney has been a famous personality and artist for most of his adult
life beginning in 1962 when he graduated with a gold medal from the Royal College
of Art. The next year London art dealer John Kasmin gave him
his first solo show.
While we’re talking portraits, Kasmin’s son art dealer Paul
Kasminthis week opened in Chelsea Andy Warhol: Patrons and Friends and features the
Pop master’s double portrait of Hockney from 1974.
Hockney first came to the United States first 1961 and returned again to in 1963
meeting his great friend curator Henry Geldzahler, and Andy
Warhol. He made a visit to Los Angeles during that same year and liked
it so much he moved there
the following year.
1969 he had the prestigious André Emmerich gallery
on 57th Street as his New York venue that continued until
the closing of the gallery in 1998. Hockney’s first
retrospective took place in 1970 at the Whitechapel Art
Gallery in London. In 1973, he moved to Paris where many
of his exquisite
colored pencil drawings of his friends were made. It was
also a fertile period for his prolific printmaking endeavors
— working first with Gemini G.E.L, and later Tyler
Graphics where he produced his famous Paper Pool series.
This period also marked the break-up of his relationship
Peter Schlesinger that is documented in
the Jack Hazan film
A Bigger Splash.
In 1975 he designed his first operatic production for the
Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s staging of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.
For the next two decades Hockney would go on to design memorable opera productions
for many of the world’s great opera companies including the Metropolitan,
Chicago Lyric as well as the Los Angeles Music Center Opera house.
1976 he began to seriously play with the camera — making
his first photocollages in his personal photo albums that
he then called joiners. He first showed his
photographs at Ileana Sonnabend’s gallery in New York
comprising an editioned portfolio of twenty iconic images. Hockney had very
photographic output in numerous leather bound photo albums.
He was not as careful with the negatives causing some organizational problems
when curator Alain Sayag of the Musée National d’Art Modern in
Paris came to Los Angeles to select a major show of Hockney’s photographs.
The solution they devised was to shoot Polaroids of the selected images so
that David’s staff could unearth the negatives and Sayag could take
a set back with him to Paris.
to r.: Still life of David Hockney's coffee table,
Los Angeles, 2004; David Hockney's terrace and pool. Photos:
night over dinner, Hockney and Sayag had long conversations
about the nature of photography and its inherent limitations.
Afterwards, Hockney found himself with a lot of left over Polaroid
film and set about making some experiments using cubist notions
about space applied photographically. His experiments resulted
in almost 200 Polaroid photocollages before he moved on to
work in the 35mm film format — a format that also allowed
for multiple exact copies unlike the Polaroids. These were
editioned and continue to fetch high prices at auction and
in galleries around the world.
In 1983, the work was documented in his influential book Cameraworks that was
accompanied by exhibitions around the world. That was also the year I met Hockney,
when the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for whom I then worked played
host to Hockney Paints the Stage organized by Minneapolis’ Walker Art
Center. The night after the opening at the museum, Richard Gray gallery hosted
of show of Hockney’s photocollages timed in conjunction with the books’ publication.
I guess you could say that’s when I got hooked on Hockney.
the time I worked for Hockney in the mid 1980s his interest
in photography was beginning to wane but not before the creation
of his photographic masterpiece
Pearblossom Highway 1 and 2 — now among the
gems of the collection of the Getty Museum. I suppose his
last purely photographic body of work were
the Home Made Prints he made in the late 1980s using office copying
Since that time, Hockney has increasingly sought refuge in drawing and painting.
A degenerative hearing disorder made it increasingly difficult for Hockney
to work in the theater as he took so much from the music to inspire his designs.
A couple of years ago he discovered watercolor painting anew and typical
of him, he reinvented it in his own way. Usually the bastion of weekend
Hockney broke with the traditional conventions and set about making large-scale
watercolors. He borrowed from his earlier photographic experiments devising
a method to create individual paper panels that became the component parts
of a larger design — sometimes as large as 9 feet across.
has also been spending a greater amount of his time in Europe
of late — making trips by car from Spain to Scandinavia.
The landscape of his childhood Yorkshire has also drawn him
thanks to his sister Margaret’s house in Bridlington
on the seashore. Armed with watercolors, he drives throughout
the region making quick watercolor sketches that are then transformed
into large-scale finished works back in the studio.
All these and more are featured in Hockney’s Pictures. It’s
a richly illustrated retrospective — a cornucopia of Hockney’s
delight in the visual world featuring more than 350 pages of full color illustrations
spanning the 45 years of his art making. One of the things that has always
astonished me about him is the deft way he can take even the smallest gallery
announcement or exhibition poster and with a few dabs of paint or some strokes
of the pen
transform the usually dreary work of graphic designer into something
someone might even want to frame.
hand is a major part of the pleasure of the book Originally,
he told me he didn’t take a big interest in the book but on second
thought he realized the possibilities it afforded with his involvement. So,
of the typically run-of-the-mill survey that one usually gets from today’s
increasingly unimaginative book publishers — we have instead an individual
artist picture book created by the artist himself. There is very little copy
in the book and most of it quotes from Hockney about the pictures themselves.
I can’t think of another living artist who has worked so successfully
in such a wide variety media. The book touches on this expansive range from
the early paintings, drawings, and prints that were the impetus of Hockney’s
early fame to the great paintings of the 1960s and 1970 that defined in large
order the aesthetic landscape of Southern California as well as his depictions
of the protagonists of his personal universe as well as member of the international
high bohemian chic in the hundreds of portraits and paintings that Hockney
created during the period.
Hockney’s work in the theater as well as his obsessive pre-occupation
with photo-collages and cubist space in the 1980s is seen throughout the
book as well as key selections from his work of the last few years which
exclusively been in watercolor. There are also several works that grew out
of his brilliant book Secret Knowledge that was published a couple years
ago and which is still wreaking havoc amongst the stodgy art historical
Hockney's sketchbook page, Ashtray
on Studio Floor, 2002
Pictures is organized in four major thematic groupings that reflect
his ongoing aesthetic interests. The first Problems of Depiction clearly illustrates the tensions that Hockney traversed in between
notions of abstraction and modernism and the innate desire we have
as humans in seeing the beauty of nature. Life Stilled highlight
the imagination and bravura the artist has brought to the genres
of still life and portraiture. He often blurs the distinctions
between these seemingly different artistic formats such as his
iconic Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy from 1970-71.
the sections of the book are really just an organizing principle.
Portraits section is perhaps the book’s most immediately
satisfying, as Hockney has to be among only of handful of internationally
known artist actually
making portraits by hand — that is without a camera. In addition to portraits
of family, friends and colleagues there is a fantastic selection of his self-portraits
which seen together exhibit the enormous range that is Hockney’s approach
to image making.
Space and Light is the finale of this richly illustrated book. While a great
many of Hockney’s best-known paintings are included, the real stars of
the show are many of his most recent watercolors that will be featured in a major
show opening February 26, 2005 at LA Louver gallery in Venice, California entitled After
Secret Knowledge: Painting the East Yorkshire Landscape.
Art Set, ©Charlie Scheips, 2004
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