David Hockney at The Getty

Almost 20 years ago I made my first trip to The Getty. I was in my late teens and obsessed with Monet and van Gogh so I was most eager to view the Impressionist pieces but always the completionist I made sure to visit every other gallery as well. I was overwhelmed by the works on display and several stuck with me over the years including this David Hockney piece.

David Hockney Pearblossom Hwy., 11 – 18th April 1986, #2 , April 11 -18, 1986 Chromog enic print s mounted on paper honeycomb panel 181.6 × 271.8 cm (71 1/2 × 107 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles © 1986 David Hockney 97.XM.39

Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2 is huge. It takes up a whole wall and draws the viewer into it’s desert local. Made as a piece for Vanity Fair and meant to represent the artist’s views of life in LA it’s right on the nose. No wonder I was struck by it so long ago. So when I was invited to return to view the current exhibition, Happy Birthday Mr. Hockney I readily agreed.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockey was organized in tribute to the Los Angeles based artist’s 80th birthday and is an overview of his prolific career. On view in two galleries it showcases several photographs, drawings and paintings that have rarely been seen by the public.

David Hockney “Still Life Blue Guitar 4th April 1982″ Composite polaroid 24 1/2 x 30” © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney: Photographs consists of several of the artist’s famed collages, including Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2. Co-curator of the exhibit, Virginia Heckert, head of the Getty’s Department of Photographs, led a tour and gave an overview of these fascinating pieces. Hockney had been taking pictures since 1960, amassing over 30,000 pieces, but had always thought of it as a hobby. In 1981 Polaroids were taken of the pieces and he became fascinated with this particular form of photography. From that October through the following April he made over 140 composites including the above Still Life Blue Guitar 4th April 1982.  Inspired by Cubism the pieces have a frantic energy to them despite consisting of static images. They are highly detailed and utterly fascinating.

David Hockney “Self-Portrait, Baden-Baden, 9th June1999” Pencil on grey paper
15 x 11 1/4″ © David Hockney Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt
Collection The David Hockney Foundation

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockey: Self-portraits is an overview of works completed over the last six decades. Beginning with a piece made while Hockey was in art school and concluding with works completed in 2012 it’s an overview of both the artist and his work. Julian Brooks, co-curator of the exhibit and senior curator of drawings at the museum, provided background on the works on display and informed us that never before has there been such a grouping of the artist’s self-portraits as most had never been in previous exhibition or sales. I was most fascinated by a series of self-portraits from 1999 including the above, Self-Portrait, Baden-Baden, 9th June 1999. Deceptively simple pencil sketches they portray a range of emotions felt by the artist in a darker period of his life following his mother’s death.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney is a wonderful tribute to the artist and adopted Angeleno. Both compact and comprehensive it presents a fascinating glimpse into one our greatest living artists. It’s on view through November 26 and should not be missed.

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