Man of the Hour (Art World Edition): David Hockney

When pioneering British pop artist David Hockney moved out to LA in 1964, his painting would forever reflect a change in tone, from his iconic poolscapes to multicolored depictions of Mulholland Drive. This summer 50 years of Hockney’s art, life, and friendship culminate back across the pond in an exhibition at London’s Royal Academy, ‘David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life.’

Capturing a series of familiar faces and personas from the California creative circles, from mega-dealer Larry Gagosian, to architect Frank Gehry, and conceptual artist with an equally expansive career, John Baldessari, Hockney spent three years on the project, with each sitting spanning two to three days in Hockney’s studio atop the Hollywood Hills. He kept the backdrop simple and consistent across the series – a blue wall, and armed yellow chair – to best capture the subjects without distractions, honing in on subtleties as a study of individuality. “We all have different faces, different insides, and I think that’s a joy actually,” said Hockney.

On revisiting the painting genre thought by some to be archaic in the age of selfies and the smart phone, Hockney quickly rebutted: “An art world that says, ‘You can’t paint portraits anymore’ is nonsense, really,” he said. “How do you mean, ‘You can’t paint portraits?’ People aren’t interesting to look at? Of course they are! They always will be.”

Hockney will follow the exhibition with two new books in the fall, the first a comprehensive career survey curated by the artist and published by Taschen, titled ‘A Bigger Book.’ Confident in the span of his artistry, with a career that has taken Hockney from painting to photography, collage to iPad tablet canvases, Hockney mused on the upcoming monograph “I know the book is going to last 100 years or something, at least.”

He will follow with a collaboration with critic Martin Gayford exploring the history of art, published by Thames & Hudson. In ‘A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen,’ Hockney visits the art of imagery, from pre-historic civilizations through to modern day cinema, capturing mankind’s most celebrated means of communication.

And communicate Hockney does, still creating work that challenges the cannon of contemporary art history and helps modern day audiences comprehend the decades upon decades of work that came before.

‘David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life.’ is at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, through October 2nd.

‘A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen’ will be released in print October 18th.  ‘A Bigger Book’ is also due in Fall 2016.

ALL PHOTOS via The Royal Academy of Arts

About the Author

Sarah Bertness is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer covering the arts, music, fashion and culture. She has a love for all things avant-garde, late night rock and roll, wanderlust, and a good dose of fringe and gold sequins. You can follow her musings on Twitter and Instagram @sarahbertness.