a bigger splash 1967 by david hockney
When I first discovered David Hockney a couple of decades ago, his paintings thrilled me. I found the cobalt cerulean hues of his swimming pools irresistible and his particular rendering of the southern California light evoked a longing in me for my childhood. He once called that light extravagant and said it was one of the lures that drew him to Los Angeles in the first place. It’s a light that owes some of its magic to air pollution and the skies under which I grew up were much smoggier than they are now. Often it was difficult to catch my breath without it hurting but those violet particulates permeated more than my lungs; when I left L.A. my heart missed that lambent glow.
This is not to say I considered Hockney a great artist. His images were so tinged with nostalgia for me, I couldn’t judge.
I recently attended a block-buster Hockney show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco – an exhibit The New York Times called a “sprawling romp.” It featured room after room of eye-popping color and included portraits of friends and family, still lifes of fruit and flowers and dazzling, giant images of the East Yorkshire landscape where Hockney grew up and returned to a decade ago. I went to see it with a friend who is an artist. I don’t usually go to art museums with friends who are artists. I don’t have anything against doing that it simply doesn’t come up very often. It came up this time when we discovered over dinner that neither of us had been to the exhibit and it was soon closing. A week later we were standing at the entrance.
“How long do you need?” I asked, looking at my watch. “Should we meet in the café?”
She shook her head. “No, no, let’s stay together.”
I’m not the kind of person who “stays together” in art museums. Actually I don’t “stay together” in any museum. I wander solo, lingering over some items, but speeding past quite a few. I’m the kind of person who meets in the café post-experience. But I’m also not the kind of person who is able to say, “I’d really rather go it alone.”
One painting in, I realized it was going to be a little more complicated than two friends sharing an art experience. She was to be the teacher. I was to be the student. I felt a migraine coming on. When I was an official student I did okay with official teachers but I’ve never been too enthusiastic about self-appointed ones. But, Wait, I said to myself. She’s an artist. A good artist. This is an opportunity to transcend my usual, I love it, like it, admire it, hate it routine. Maybe I’ll learn something. And I did. Read the rest of this entry »