Making A Splash in L.A.

hockney poolSo how does a Yorkshire lad, born and raised in Bradford, England end up creating some of the greatest art of the late 20th century in L.A.? According to David Hockney, it was the “sexiness” of Southern California that drew him like a moth to a flame.

Once he set up camp in Santa Monica, Hockney began a prolific period of painting the young blonde boys that had fascinated him when he collected their photos back in London. Meeting Warhol in New York had been a high point, but the access to the wet, sculpted boys on the beach and the laid-back vibe of California inspired some of Hockney’s greatest paintings and honed the naturalistic style that was to become his trademark.

Not reluctant to try something new, Hockney explored Polaroid collages in the 80s and then played with color laser output in the 90s. He also used the Quantel Paintbox software that permitted him to sketch directly on to a computer monitor.

hockney californiaBy the mid nineties, Hockney paintings were selling for amazing prices -- A Bigger Grand Canyon (60 connected canvases) sold for $4.6 million and one of his 1966 paintings, The Splash, sold for £2.6 million.

In the year 2000 Hockney was deep into the writing for Secret Knowledge, a book that explores the lost techniques of the Old Masters, painters that have always held Hockney’s admiration. It’s a fascinating look at how the masters may have used lost techniques and optical aids to create some of their art. Hockney theorizes that Ingres, for example, used a camera lucida (basically a prism on a stick) to capturehockney yorkshire the outlines of costumes, and that later artists possibly used the camera obscura. Since this theory is another way of saying the masters cheated on their art, you can imagine the fire and fury the book caused when it came out in 2001.

No longer L.A. based, the artist traveled frequently to Spain, France, Norway, Germany and Italy. Hockney has also renewed his acquaintance with Yorkshire where he has been painting many landscapes in and around his Bridlington home. Those that have seen the house interior there say that it’s as if L.A. has come to Yorkshire.

Hockney fans have to content themselves with seeing his work at some of the permanent exhibitions, such as L.A. Louver, the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago or the extensive collection at Salts Mill in his hometown of Bradford.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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