David Hockney at LACMA

In an interview, the British artist David Hockney said: “I’m not bored yet.  I’m still curious.  I’m still excited by pictures.  I say that when I’m in the studio, I feel like I’m 30. But when I leave it, I know I’m 80.  So naturally, I stay in here.  Wouldn’t you rather be 30?”

In 2018 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presented an exhibition by Mr. Hockney.  Something about this show keeps me returning to my photos and wondering: what made it so memorable?  The short answer is: “it’s all about the presentation,” the long answer is as follows:

The installation was comprised of eighty-two portraits of different people, which Mr. Hockney invited to his Los Angeles studio from 2013 to 2016.  All paintings are painted in acrylic on 48″ by 36″ (121 x 91cm) canvases.  For each portrait, he dedicated 20 hours of work or about three days.  I believe that with his talent and experience, Mr. Hockney could paint the sitters blindfolded.  None of the individual portraits took my breath away, other than trying to figure out if I recognized the model.  The most memorable element of the exhibition is in its presentation.  All paintings are of equal size; in all of them, the model is seated in the same yellow armchair against a blue/green background.  And then there is the deep Venetian red wall color, which makes the canvases look as if they are jumping off the wall.

I wonder, if the exhibition was of another artist with the same precise configuration but different paintings, would it be just as memorable as this exhibition?  And then again, where is the line of value judgment between presentation and content; or maybe presentation is part of the content.  I could go on, but I’ll stop.

January 2019