Monday, July 20, 2015

Douglas Messerli | "Inside Art: Changing Perspectives" (on David Hockney's "Painting and Photography" at LA Louver)

inside art: changing perspectives

by Douglas Messerli

David Hockney “Paintings and Photography” / LA Louver gallery / Howard Fox and I attended the opening Wednesday, July 15, 2015

For the past several decades, artist David Hockney has been working on various technological advanced methods of photography, creating vast collaged photographs such as his noted Pearblosom Hwy. 11-18 April, 1986 #2, and, more recently—particularly after his return to Los Angeles from a decade in East Yorkshire, England in 2013—working on what he terms as “photographic drawings” wherein he combines hundreds of closely-shot images digitally overlaid to create works with multiple perspectives. Hockney has also been using these advanced photographic techniques to create paintings that, again through their multiple perspectives, create a new sense of space and time.

      Since each of the combined photographs, digitally stitched together to create a whole, has its own perspective, the eyes, instead of automatically moving in a standard triangulation toward a diminishing distance, in these photographs and related paintings the eyes often began as a focal point that moves outward to an opening distance, with people and objects in the far distance often represented with as much or greater detail that those in the foreground. In short, the usual theatrical convention of image viewed through the proscenium has been broken down so that we can see many things, in both foreground and background, with equal intensity.
     Hockney plays with notion most consciously in the “photographic drawing” Perspective Should Be Reversed of 2014, where the looming figures pointing in various directions stand behind a table that, almost comically, begins with a vanishing point and moves outward to the distance. But the same use of “perspective” occurs more subtly in  all the works in the card and scrabble playing works, art that itself seems to call up Paul Cezanne and others, which encourages us to revisit those images in our imaginations and, comparing them, attend to the opposite of Hockney’s perspective.   










Just as interesting, moreover, is how the very details of these works reveal, along with Hockney’s ability to place them at will about the room, an utterly different series of relationships. In his new art, where figures and objects are placed at various angles and in intimate configurations or, even more importantly, are represented as gesticulating dramatically, helps to alter the nature of what might have otherwise been a more realist scenarios.

     Not only do we have to question to where the various individuals of Perspective Should Be Reversed, for example, are attempting to draw our attention, as they point, evidently, at different earlier and contemporary works of Hockney hanging along his studio walls, but we perceive these as almost dramatic declarations that take the work out of traditional studio representation into a highly theatrical world where the past and present coexist.

     This seems even more apparent, it seems to me, in the works where the artist features primarily objects (such as in his The Chairs), scattering them in different directions and at tilts of perspective that make it appear that the chairs, tables, and benches of his studio furniture are themselves enacting a drama, as in some surrealist work such as Ionesco’s play of the same name. Through the digital rearrangement of furniture, it is almost as if these non-sentient objects were attempting to communicate with one another in this space emptied of all but three human beings.
     As always, Hockney, in all these works, is a brilliant colorist; and suddenly within these scenes we also perceive that the artist has extended that sensibility to the inanimate objects that inhabit the same space as his art. This is made more apparent, it seems to me, in the paintings that accompany his portraits, such as Studio Interior, where the sky blue chair, the red benches and the green picnic table top gather with their wooden orange brothers.

     Similarly, when the artist turns to painting figures, he obviously employs some of the same principles as in his photographs, allowing the richly hued canvases to portray much deeper psychological depth as the various models turn and stare into space in various directions (see The Group V, 6-11 May, 2014, at left).

     The works of Hockney’s new show at LA Louver, “Paintings and Photography” reveal that the now 78-year year old Hockney, is still creating art at the top of his form, and, perhaps more important, is seeking out new directions. 
     If, as Hockney has stated in recent interviews, he remains these days at home most nights instead of celebrating the city as he did in his youth, he has still not lost any of his wonderment, we perceive from this show, about how to portray the world about him.

Los Angeles, July 20, 2015

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