Friday, October 25, 2013

Hockney at the de Young

I met up with fellow arts writer and blogger DeWitt Cheng today and we "did" Hockney at the de Young

"A Bigger Picture," now on view at the de Young Museum features the monumental pieces from his 2012 London show, which include a painting 32 feet wide and 12 feet high, as well a painting made up of 32 canvases. But Hockney has been painting what Benefield, the FAMSF deputy director calls, “Amazingly detailed, beautifully drawn landscapes,” where he went outdoors in East Yorkshire, England, from January through May for a series called "The Arrival of Spring." 

All the while, in his studio, he has been creating portraits in every conceivable medium, including watercolor, oil on canvas, charcoal on paper, computer and iPad.

Although most of us are familiar with Hockney's work, to have it all laid out in an organized fashion made it possible to take all of the work in without too much museum fatigue. The show features nearly 400 paintings, drawings and even video pieces using multiple cameras including 147 works produced on his iPad and iPhone.

I would say that Hockney could qualify as one of our most prolific and versatile artists. Everything shown in the show is good. Well, there are a few misses - one or two of the over sized landscapes were a bit flat and verged into camp. 

His "Sermon on the Mount" landsapes were of uneven quality. Some of the individual neo-classial figures worked in groups but the background with the huge red "mount" overwhelmed the painting. But his mastery of the pencil portrait and his smaller landscapes were brilliant. It seems to me that he's mastered quite a bit of Western Art History - Ingres for the delicate pencil work and Claude Lorain for his landscapes with perhaps a bit of Rousseau thrown in for good measure and made it his own. Plus having DeWitt Cheng to talk to made viewing the show all the more interesting. 

DeWitt and I both marveled at the freshness of his vision, even after so many years of painting. Apparently this is something he prides himself on, "The people don't look very hard at the world. Well, I do, and I do something with it, and I think that's what people might like," he told ABC7 News

The show is full of his fascination with and expert use of technology - from his iPad drawings to a movie made with 18 cameras photographing simultaneously but adjusted to project slightly off tilt. 

Hockney himself clarifies, “By putting the separate perspectives there, the eye is forced to scan. Not everything can be seen at once, and this seems to make the outside edge less important. Film directors want you to look at what they choose. Our way gives the choice back to the viewer, hence, it seems to me, a greater possibility for new narratives.”

The Chron review mentioned the same things that we noticed - the intense greens, the brilliant almost Fauvist color in some works. the varried markings in each and every piece, the black and white drawings which are blow ups from Polaroids but can work on their own - everything to challenger the viewer not to become complacent. "My aim is to show people the world, I guess," he said. "You see things in a picture. Otherwise, people scan what's in front of them but they don't really look very hard at the world. Well, I do, and I do something with it."

And that, said Hockney "is why you need artists."

David Hockney at the de Young through Jan 2014

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