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.

Gluebooks On The Move

Normally when we get to this time of the year, I'm thrilled. September is the month of my birth, a time when I feel most comfortable in my skin. The leaves are beginning to yellow and the brilliant light of the Central Valley is edged with a hint of shadows to come. While the weather lived up to it's reputation, September brought a greater than normal share of challenges. I'm pleased to say that while I did my share of "pre-whining,"  (a phrase my sister coined for crossing "troubled waters" before you reach them) I met each one fairly and squarely, but with little time for the studio.

Little time, that is, until a barking good case of bronchitis laid me up for a week. While I was there, I decided to explore Gretchen Miller's workshop, Gluebook Goodness, a part of 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. (I figured I could work on it in bed!)

I loved watching Gretchen's hands at work in her video, adding images, words and smudged ink around the edges. I was particularly touched by her encouragement to "dedicate" our gluebooks to particular topics. In her hands, I watched ordinary effluvia such as receipts, tickets and tokens become the diaries of days filled with meaning.

But to what would I dedicate myself and my book? I hunted out receipts and notes around the house, but aside from one that my husband left saying: "Hallie's had hers / Dishwasher mostly emptied" I didn't find any special meanings.

My answer arrived in the form of a Sunday New York Times that my mom dropped off at my house.  It just so happened that this was the issue in which the NY Times Arts section listed all the upcoming exhibits for 2013. I turned to a page filled with Arabic script and saw the words "Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries."

Eureka! My book would be a tour of all of the exhibits around the country that I want to visit next year. I don't know if I'll get to all of them, but here's a partial list with bonus images:

Crossing Borders: Manuscripts From the Bodleian Libraries at the Jewish Museum, NY, NY (Check out the link above for some fabulous photographs.)

Jasper Johns: Seeing With the Mind's Eye: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Girl With A Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from Mauritshuis: DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

Gravity and Grace: Monumental works by El Anatsui, Brooklyn Museum, NY

I'm curious--what exhibits are on your "must see" list this art season?