A & E

David Hockney: The de Young’s largest exhibition yet

© David Hockney

In the end nobody knows how it’s done — how art is made. It can’t be explained. Optical devices are just tools. Understanding a tool doesn’t explain the magic of creation. Nothing can.
—David Hockney

From Oct. 26, 2013 through Jan. 20, 2014, the de Young will present the largest exhibition in its history. More than 300 works in 18,000 square feet of the gallery will be devoted to the first comprehensive survey of David Hockney’s work since 2002, arguably the most prolific and acclaimed period of the artist’s 50-plus year career.

One of the top contemporary British artists, Hockney’s bright pop art paintings of vividly colored swimming pools and landscapes portrayed his life in Southern California, his home for many years. Portraits of friends, relatives, and lovers — some rendered life-size on large canvases — serve to document his personal and professional relationships over time.

A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2, 2009 digital painting: © David Hockney

Hockney was also one of the first painters of his generation to embrace technology as an art form. He utilizes the iPhone Brushes application, once admitting, “I draw flowers every day on my iPhone and send them to my friends, so they get fresh flowers every morning.” Other popular Hockney mediums include stage design, photo collage, and printmaking.

In recent years, Hockney returned to his native Yorkshire, England to embark on a series of landscapes made from multiple canvases depicting nature imagery on a colossal scale. The execution of these monumental paintings was documented in the 2009 film David Hockney: A Bigger Picture. The artist is shown in his studio and in the countryside, painting and discussing his methodologies. The subjects are given the typical Hockney treatment. Trees are rendered in rich, seemingly non-naturalistic pop colors, yet Hockney shows the camera that the trees’ shadow really is purple. He returns to the same locales at different times of the day creating radically different paintings out of the same bare trees. Like Monet’s series of haystack paintings, the trees are transformed as shadows shift in the changing sunlight.

The film may serve as a helpful introduction for museumgoers as these same immense multicanvas landscapes will be a prominent feature in the de Young exhibition. The survey will include Hockney’s more traditional paintings as well as his Photoshop portraits, digital videos tracking the changing seasons, and his iPad landscapes.

In his 76th year, David Hockney continues to seek out new territory instead of revisiting his celebrated past. His art is happening now.

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Sharon Anderson is an artist and writer in Southern California. She can be reached at www.mindtheimage.com.

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