A couple of mornings ago I got up a bit early and took a plane, train and a bus to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. I had an early lunch in the cafe with my old pal Andrea Scher and then we began to tour A Bigger Exhibition, David Hockney’s retrospective of the past decade or so.
The work is traditional in a sense — all landscapes and portraits. But that’s where the familiar ends. Room after room is deluged in color, the colors that are Hockneys signature, salmon, teal, violet, burnt orange, sky blue, fuschia, and every imagine able shade of green. There are rooms full of Watercolors, watercolor that does things mine never do, bright, clean colors that vibrate off the paper, Watercolors that look like acrylics, acrylics that look like television screen, oils that fill the walls as he stacks two, then four, then twelve, then thirty (!) individual canvases to make landscapes that are as big as the landscapes themselves.
There were several rooms of paintings he made on his iPhone and iPad then blew up into prints that are ten or more feet tall, prints that look like oils from across the room and look like electric squiggles close up.* There’s a room filled with screens and on each one new iphone images appear. You can watch them unfolding as he layers lines and pure colors. And there are hundreds and hundreds of them, landscapes, portraits, still lifes, … blah!In other rooms, long processions of watercolor and oil portraits, people sitting in the same chair in the same room, all different, all alive.
I kept getting waves of inspiration throughout the show, a fizzy feeling in my belly that I had to run away immediately and start to paint, draw, anything. I love Hockney so much and I learn from everything he does. He’s always the smartest kid in the class, the one genius among we sheep. His work is not heady and intellectual, it’s right there, familiar and yet, he makes it looks so easy. Watch him paint and you think, okay, okay, that’s doable. But he manages to knock out fields of spring flowers while I wade through the mud. He’s a seventy-five year old geezer but he’s working in ten media at once, filling a whole room of sketchbooks, and paintings and making these insane Cubist Videos by strapping twenty high-def cameras to his car and driving through the forest, season after season.
The man jumps onto every new thing as soon as it half emerges. He made fax drawings in the ’70s and Polaroid collages. He drew on the computer before any one. I hope he keeps living and showing me what it can all be.
Then, on the way out, Andrea and I found a fairy door in a log in Golden Gate Park.
The perfect end to a magical day.
* I looked at my own iPhone in disgust and showed it these works of genius. “All you seem to do is send texts and visit Facebook all day,” I sneered, “Why don’t you make some art?” Siri just said, “Okay” and showed me a website about making Valentine’s Day hearts. Why can’t you be more like Scarlett Johansson?
P.S. I would urge you to go but the show closes this weekend.😦