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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

David Hockney

If you thought Pop Art started during the 1960s with Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and company, you'd be wrong. Actually, it goes back somewhat further than that, to around 1956, and not here but in England when Richard Hamilton started cutting out photos from magazines and collaging them into painted scenes such as Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? A second artist, David Hockney did his Pop thing in paint, picking his subjects from magazines, but painting them with a stylish flair and no small amount of wit. Strangely enough however, even though his roots go back to the very birth of Pop Art, Hockney has never considered himself a Pop artist. His style certainly leans in that direction, but his painting has a more profound quality to it, perhaps because he tired of the Pop image and moved on before most American artists even began painting such things.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark Percy, 1970-71,
David Hockney
Hockney was born in 1937, and even as a student in the Royal College of Art he began winning international prizes, his career already approaching greatness. By the time he was in his mid-twenties he was one of the best-known artists in Britain. Yet, his portraits, like that of Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy are far more traditional and insightful than one might expect from an artist with such a background.

A Bigger Splash, 1967, David Hockney
In the mid-60s, he moved to California where his infatuation with that state's most important body of water, the swimming pool, has made it an icon of his work. His painting entitled A Bigger Splash also has the distinction of inspiring a movie by the same title about his work and lifestyle. And living so close to the entertainment capital of the world, Hockney's has been in demand as a stage and set designer as well. His sets for Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" during the mid-80s are surprisingly abstract for an artist noted for his strong draftsmanship and exacting, hard-edged, representational style.

David Hockney by David Hockney,
1977, David Hockney
Hockney has had a broad, varied career. For a time he taught at the University of Iowa, as well as the University of Colorado and UC Berkley. Yet, besides his homeland, and his adopted state of California, he has found himself working in places as far-flung as China, Egypt, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, and New York. His work includes etchings, lithographs, theater costumes, magazine covers, Polaroid montages, and paintings from the public showers. Both his showers and his swimming pools are often laden with homo-erotic images. Many of his drawings and etchings record the intimate details of his gay lifestyle. Though much of his more recent work has been in the area of photography, he has also explored the use of the photocopier as an artistic tool. In addition to being a prolific writer and art commentator, Hockney has also delved into publishing, producing many art books about his own work such as David Hockney by David Hockney.

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