David Hockney: Diverse Perspectives

"WOLDGATE WOODS, 26, 27 & 30 JULY 2006" ©2006, David Hockney I spent Sunday in sparkling  San Francisco, traveling there to see the much anticipated David Hockney "A Bigger Exhibition," at the deYoung Museum. I'd read about the exhibit, but was unprepared to enter a virtual (and I do mean virtual) wonder of the world.

At a time when we complain about memory lapses and gray hair, this 76 year-old master lives life to his fullest and shows no signs of slowing down. After navigating through a labyrinth of grand halls, I emerged renewed and astounded.

Much of the work originates from Great Britain, in the county of Yorkshire, near where Hockney grew up. There were two rooms in particular that struck me. He had chosen a spot in Woldgate Woods and in a quartet of pieces, painted this same spot in spring, summer, fall and winter. I could stand in the middle of the room, turn 90 degrees and watch the world ripen and die away throughout a year! The works were massive; six panels, each the size of a large painting in its own right. Immersion is putting it mildly.

The next room revealed another 4 pieces, in 4 seasons, on 4 walls. But this time, each one was a carefully constructed montage of 9 video screens, slowly advancing down a country lane, shifting in and out of synchronization and overlap (yes, some our party found it a bit dizzying).

"Still from Woldgate Woods" (November 26, 2010) is nine digital videos synchronized to comprise a single artwork. Photo by Spencer Michels/PBS NewsHour

The video images were created by placing 9 different cameras on a van, all filming the same scene from slightly different points of view. Once back in the studio, Hockney edited the footage to create the composite perspective in the piece above.

I had read much about Hockney's use of the iphone and ipad, but mistakenly discounted the authenticity of the media; thinking that a mark of the hand on paper is genuine and somehow more significant than gestures on a screen. I was taken aback as I entered yet another huge gallery, this one containing ipad drawings from Yosemite National Park, each enlarged to 12 feet tall. (The drawings were blown up in sections, printed on separate pieces of paper and reassembled.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The  drawings were done in a sweeping and general way; the swirls and lines of cloud and tree reminiscent of Chinese landscape painting. The docent, whose tour I'd joined, invited us to approach each painting as if it were a roadside vista, stop 18 inches away, and "look up."

I obeyed, wondering what might happen. As I tilted my head up, I felt uncannily as if I were standing at the bottom of Half Dome, staring up into the gauzy clouds. If you've spent any time in Yosemite, many of the views are unmistakeable. As I looked over to the next painting, the swoops of cloud, which from standing afar, are clearly the artifacts of touch on an ipad, merged into a sort of luminous fog, obscuring the boundary between the depicted rock wall and the wall of the gallery.

Exiting the exhibition and then leaving the city, the green trees of The Presidio rushing by, I had the sensation of inhabiting an endless Hockney painting--the incredible gift of the painter and his works--and I wondered what the world would be like if we all tried a bit harder to study it from multiple perspectives.

To see more of Hockney's works,  you can click here for a short video that he made for the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Close to Home

Sara Post, Redwoods, ©2011, oil & cold wax

Last week I had the occasion to attend an opening for an artist friend whom I've mentioned frequently in this blog, Sara Post. Sara's exhibit, Close to Home, was up and ready to see in our local Davis, CA gallery, the Artery.

I had a particular curiosity about this exhibit because Sara had confessed to me over coffee several weeks back that she had one month to come up with the artwork for this show. When she told me this, I knew for a certainty that she would take the proverbial tube of paint and run. And run with it she did.

A couple of weeks later, I stopped by her house to drop off a book. When I walked into her studio, work was spread over the tables, hanging on the walls and arranged on the floor. Joyful abandon reigned supreme.

Sara Post, Sprinklers, ©2011, monotype

I'm fascinated by how specific conditions such as an imminent deadline can elicit completely different creative responses in people. Sara decided to look no further than her own backyard for inspiration.

A wise choice judging by the results.  Sara honors the beauty of houses and gardens and the fascination that we bring to them. It's as if she's taken a magnifying glass to the world outdoors; exploring walls, windows, doors and rooftops; the spaces they create and the landscape they define.

Her work places itself in a tradition of modern landscape painters such as David Hockney and Cy Twombly.

Cy Twombly. Untitled (detail), ©2007

As I gazed at the pieces I found myself drifting into an imaginary back yard where pools of deep turquoise water drifted in and out of focus and grasses blew in the wind, waving their tips of gentle gold.

I crisscrossed the gallery, picking up one observation here and dropping another there,  imagining the possibilities that my own back yard might offer.

Sara Post, Flags, ©2011, monoprint

If, as Voltaire says in his novel Candide, "we must cultivate our own garden," this exhibit invites us to explore the abundant possibilities which may lie therein.