Tuesday, December 17, 2013

David Hockney: A feeling of liberation in his art


David Hockney / Self portrait with red braces.
Watercolor on paper, 2003.

David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, assembled exclusively for the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is both expansive in its scope and monumental in its scale. Think big and you get the picture.

It's the first comprehensive exhibition of David Hockney's 21st-century artwork -- featuring more than 300 works of this celebrated 76-year-old British artist's work shown utilizing 18,000 square feet of gallery space and spread over two floors -- and it includes not only watercolor on paper and oil on canvas, but also iPad drawings and digital movies.

My wife and I happened upon David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition on a recent Friday evening about three weeks after its opening and we were both impressed by how Hockney's work, which surveys the artist's work from 2002 to present, incorporates both the use of traditional materials and also evolving technologies.

"This exhibition illustrates Hockney's concentration during this period on two genres, portraits and landscapes, in media ranging from the complex technologies used to make the movies to simple pencil and paper," wrote Richard Benefield in the museum's Fine Arts magazine. "Like an artist alchemist, Hockney in one minute uses a modern digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire."

David Hockney / Yosemite I
iPad drawing printed on paper (6 sheets)
and mounted on Dibond (6 sheets),  2011.
One can't help notice some very larger-than-life paintings -- big picture en plein air landscapes -- assembled on many of the walls throughout the Herbst Exhibition Galleries that were assembled by Hockney's longtime friend and colleague Gregory Evans. Many of these landscapes are grand in their size and include multi-canvas oil paintings and large-scale digital movies that were shot using multiple cameras, some which utilized as many as 18 monitors for their display.

"Not only does he make vivid a startling range of green hues in landscape paintings, but his drawings -- even those made on an iPad -- continually probe for marks, textures and patterns to register nature's details," wrote San Francisco Chronicle art critic Kenneth Baker in his review of the Hockney exhibition.

David Hockney/ Woldgate Woods, 26, 27, & 30 July 2006.
Oil on canvas (6 panels).

There's a little something of everything for everyone and a lot of Hockney goes a long way. It's the largest exhibition ever mounted by the de Young -- much of it is shown chronologically -- and it includes still lifes, portraits and photographic collages. Throughout, Hockney makes use of a wonderful sense of color -- he stirs our emotions through his exuberance for beauty and nature -- and he's a master of modern digital technology.

"Hockney might seem an odd choice for the largest exhibition ever in San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums," wrote Baker. "But on at least two grounds it makes sense: The Bay Area has a deep history of interest in and production of figurative art, and Hockney's work has much to teach us about observation and depiction that links to the long history of art."

David Hockney / Self-portrait with Charlie, 2005. Oil on canvas.
• • •
A Bigger Exhibition / Paintings, works on paper and video.
At the de Young, San Francisco, Oct. 26, 2013-Jan. 20, 2014.

All photographs courtesy of Google images, 2013.

1 comment:

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