David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, was on view at the deYoung Museum through January 20th. Hockney, perhaps the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation, assembled this show exclusively for the deYoung. More than 300 works were shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition ever at the museum.
Many of the paintings are vivid water colors of trees and simple, straightforward scenes of rolling hills in the countryside. Portraits of Hockney’s friends and acquaintances filled a whole room at the museum and spilled over into other areas of the exhibition. But my favorite part of the exhibition was seeing the awesome size of many of the images which are multiple canvases pieced together to make wall-sized presentations.
Hockney’s interpretation of Claude Lorrain’s, The Sermon on the Mount, is made up of 30 canvases reaching 24 feet across. Many of the landscapes also use multiple canvases, often with branches and details not quite matching up.
The painting, Bigger Yosemite, consisted of five drawings created by Hockney on his iPad while the previous room was filled with charcoal drawings. Then, much to my amusement, the observation deck on the Museum’s tower seemed like one more huge Hockney painting as the lines of the window panes and their shadows mirrored the exhibit I had just walked through.
But my absolute favorite room was the one where the paintings were all the same scene at different times of the year. The paintings depicted what Hockney called “The Tunnel” – a simple country-side road vanishing through a row of trees sometimes green and other times naked. Obviously Hockney returned over and over again to stand in the same spot to create new interpretations of a familiar haunt. Although each painting was distinctively different you knew you were looking at exactly the same scene from the same vantage point.
I love to photograph this way as well. For instance, I return over and over again to the Palace of Fine arts to see how the moving water is reflecting the morning light upon the dome and pillars. Although very different subjects, these images reminded me of my wonderful day at the deYoung.
Images and photographs are, after all, works that help us associate with something in our own experience. You don’t have to have been to the exact locations to enter into them and through them travel your own journey.