David Hockney, “A Bigger Exhibition” at de Young Museum

by Admin on 10/28/2013

Although in his seventies, British contemporary artist David Hockney has been the subject of two grand-scale exhibitions in the past two years featuring recently completed works that mark one of the most prolific periods of his career; one of them is “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” now at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. Composed of nearly 400 pieces, from sketchbooks to masterworks, many the largest paintings he’s ever completed in his career over 18,000 square feet of gallery space, “A Bigger Exhibition” is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work since 2002, and is the largest exhibition in the museum’s history. “A Bigger Exhibition” comes after another grand-scale survey of the artist’s new work, at London’s Royal Academy in 2012, “A Bigger Picture.” Chronicling Hockney’s recent artistic period following the knowledge gained from researching his recently published book, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters published in 2001, “A Bigger Exhibition” illustrates David Hockney’s continued resilience and versatility, not only in color and subject of paintings and drawings, but also furthering his already technologically innovative new media practices.

From watercolors, charcoals, oil paintings, as well as a wide array of media, “A Bigger Exhibition” is the debut of several of Hockney’s new works, marking this pivotal moment for the artist’s career. One in particular, The Arrival of Spring in 2013 (twenty thirteen), which includes 25 charcoal drawings of Yorkshire countryside in winter and spring, finished just this past May captures, says Hockney, “the bleakness of the winter and its exciting transformation to the summer.” This metaphoric moment of burgeoning ideas, as well as awakening from a stark and perhaps bleak time pervades throughout the exhibition, where landscapes of cloudy days and winter landscapes of the artist’s native Yorkshire turn to grand vistas of California’s Yosemite Valley. This prolific artistic moment also includes some of Hockney’s grandest works both in size and concept, such as The Bigger Message, including a re-presentation in his own style of Claude Lorrain’s The Sermon on the Mount. Innovative practices are present as well: a noticeably invested interest in watercolor, also on view for the first time, in addition to painting en plein air, intriguing experimentation with iPhone and iPad drawings, oil paintings on a grand scale, and digital movies. Hockney also exhibits his recent series of portraiture, for which he is perhaps most well known, completed in Los Angeles. Fashioned in color and charcoal, these portraits reveal the artist’s personal and intimate relationships and in many ways his current ideologies and circumstances.

This exhibition also highlights Hockney’s career-long engagement with a wide variety of tools and media; how it was changed throughout the years, but has continually carried on the artist’s fundamental interests and explored theories and ideas. Stemming from his interests in multiple perspective brought to the fore in Modern art by Pablo Picasso, Hockney created photocollages in the early 1980s he called “joiners,” using multiple Polaroids of sitters and landscapes to depict the multitudes of lives within a single subject. This interest and further exploration is carried further in his “Cubist movies” in the exhibition at de Young. Including as many as 18 perspectives, these movies, says Hockney made possible by “the smallness of new video cameras…generating different lines of vision…” His affinity for the latest technologies continues onward to his already widely-acclaimed iPad sketches he began five years ago, of which over 150 are on view here. With these kinds of drawings, Hockney’s brilliant colorist technique dominates. Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, summarizes Hockney’s allure in the exhibition’s catalogue: “Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make colourful iPad drawings; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draughtsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire, England.” And perhaps because of Hockney’s tenacious experimentations with color, paint, subject and media, audiences are invited to see the world in its all its beautiful, multiple hues and views.


David Hockney, “A Bigger Exhibition” will be at de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, through January 20, 2014