If ever there was an artist who’s resisted stereotyping, it’s David Hockney. At the age of 76, and one of the most influential and admired figures in British art, he shows again that his process is one of constant evolution, no more evident than in A Bigger Exhibition, on view at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through January.
Of the nearly 400 works on display, many were created on the iPad, an instrument that the painter added to his palette beginning in 2010. The openness of mind that led Hockney to explore this new avenue as an outlet for his creativity is remarkable enough; more importantly, it brings an expanding area of digital technology to the hallowed halls of a major museum, with the imprimatur of one of the living legends of the art world.
One can argue the drawbacks of this incipient marriage: “A certain almost magical quality of oil paint, a tactile, tangible substance, is lost when a painting becomes, at heart, a piece of code, a set of invisible 1′s and 0′s,” noted an art historian. (But can’t the same be said of a photograph, which, after all, is the result of a bunch of anonymous pixels?)
A few weeks ago, in a post about some lesser-known works by the preeminent photographer of the American West, Ansel Adams, I wrote about “predictability not allowed” as an unwritten credo that drives all great artists. By coincidence, it also turns out that several of the Hockney drawings created on the iPad focus on Yosemite National Park, one of the subjects that Adams was most known for.
I found it fascinating to contrast this grand wonder of nature through mediums both digital and photographic, but most especially, through the eyes of two masters who very definitely embraced that silent ethos of always keeping it fresh.
Art often intersects in unexpected fashion, a collision that’s especially impactful when it involves true originals.