Archive for David Hockney

The Road Through Woldgate Woods: David Hockney at The deYoung

Posted in Bay Area Art Scene, Contemporary Art, Digital, Drawing, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Painting with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2013 by Liz Hager

By LIZ HAGER
© Liz Hager, 2013. All Rights Reserved

David Hockney—The Black Glacier 2002

David Hockney,The Black Glacier, 2002
Watercolor on 6 sheets of paper (18 x 24″ each)
36 x 72″ overall

Six Fairy Tales, David Hockney’s pictorial interpretation of The Brothers Grimm, was my introduction to the artist in the late 70s.  Rather than portray moments of narrative action, Hockney chose to focus on the characters and their environments.  While telegraphing Hockney’s signature (and enduring) interest in places, people and certain still-life subjects, these etchings quietly enrolled me into Hockney’s view of the world—equal parts familiar, banal, whimsical, amusing, beautiful, sweet, ugly, and, sometimes, just a bit deliciously sinister.

David Hockney, Larry Gagosian,

David Hockney, Larry Gagosian, 28-29 September, 2013
Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 36″

Relentless exuberance might be the best way to describe the Hockney on view in “A Bigger Exhibition,” the de Young’s current extravaganza. The show, aptly named on many levels, features 18,000 square feet of Hockney—some 398 works. Of that number 78 were completed in this year alone, a testament to the artist’s prodigious work habits.  The show displays quite a number of huge pieces, constructed, as are his videos, in grids of smaller canvases. Plein air landscapes of his beloved East Yorkshire countryside and portraits of his friends comprise the bulk of the exhibition, though it includes other pieces, including most interestingly The Great Wall.

David Hockney at the deYoung for press preview

The exhibition spans work completed in 1999 to portraits finished this month, though 2002 might be the most important milestone. This was the year Hockney returned to painting after a multi-year investigation of the use by Renaissance artists of the camera lucida, which culminated in the release of the fascinating and controversial Secret Knowledge.

David Hockney. A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2, 2009

David Hockney. A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2, 2009
Inkjet printed computer drawing on paper,
mounted on Dibond
63 7/8 x 42 7/8″

Hockney facilely creates in a variety of visual media, including iPad software and video. With the digital installation room the museum’s curators have accomplished a miraculous feat—people lingered, seeming to view works for longer than the all-too-common 30 second scan. (Although on a recent visit there was still a lot of shutter snapping. Hello, would you please put your iPhone away and just really look for a moment?)

David Hockney, Karen Wright2002 watercolor on paper 24 x 18 1/8"

David Hockney, Karen Wright, 2002
Watercolor on paper
24 x 18 1/8″

Color is Hockney’s seductive Siren, and she is both an asset and a liability. Taken as individual compositions, the bright saturated colors delight. Hockney Woods is a cheery place full of daringly-deployed “tube” greens mixed to a wide range of tints and shades.   Hockney uses the complementary antidote, magenta, in just the right amount to soothe those highly-agitated greens.  This palette does not replicate the lush Yorkshire countryside so much as symbolize it.  You won’t probably recognize this as England. With a color subconscious permanently colonized by Los Angeles,  the road to Woldgate Woods runs through Santa Monica.

En mass Hockney’s saturated colors have a different effect. A room of huge paintings have the power to overwhelm. I quit one gallery with a brain stimulated into nervous excitation.

David Hockney, Woldgate, 6-7 February, from 'The Arrival of Spring in 2013 Charcoal on paper, 22 5/8 x 30 1/4"

David Hockney, Woldgate, 6-7 February, from ‘The Arrival of
Spring in 2013′

Charcoal on paper, 22 5/8 x 30 1/4″

Good thing then that “A Bigger Exhibition” contains crannies of calming black and white drawings. These oases also serve to demonstrate the fundamental role drawing has always had in Hockney’s art.  “Drawing is an ancient thing,” he wryly observed at Wednesday’s press preview. “So why were they saying we’ll give it up? After 30,000 years, why would we do that?”

I will be back to study more carefully all the landscape drawings and his 2000 portraits of National Gallery guards. (These among the very few portraits Hockney produced of people he didn’t know; just like his inspiration Ingres, Hockney invited them to tea first to get to know them.)

David Hockney, Winter Tunnel with Snow, March 2006
Oil on canvas. 36 x 48″

Beyond color, what is striking about the work on display is Hockney’s attention to mark making and decorative pattern. The spirit of Rousseau is unavoidably invoked in some of the more densely foliated landscapes.  In certain instances of mark making Hockney may even have out-Van Goghed van Gogh.

David Hockney, May Blossom on the Roman Road, 2009 Oil on 8 canvases, each 36 x 48"

David Hockney, May Blossom on the Roman Road, 2009
Oil on 8 canvases, each 36 x 48″

One viewing of “A Bigger Exhibition” was barely sufficient to get a lay of the land, nevermind formulate a concrete sense of all the things this vast amount of work says about the artist.  I will be back to the de Young in the coming weeks. Nevertheless,  I can’t help but wonder whether this show would have been aided by some judicious editing to create a tighter view of the artist.   We’ll soon know whether “A Bigger Exhibition” makes new Hockney fans or looses all but the most stalwart of existing fans.

David Hockney, Lucien Freud. 1999 Pencil on grey paper using Camera Lucida, 22 1/4 x 15"

David Hockney, Lucien Freud. 1999
Pencil on grey paper using camera lucida,
22 1/4 x 15″

The Rabbit Hole

David Hockney
Intelligent Life—“Brushes With Hockney”
Video: Hockney sketchbooks
Hockney’s multi-camera landscape video

Lucien Freud, David Hockney, 2002
Oil on canvas, 16 x 12 1/4″

On With the Party: Photomontage After Hannah Höch

Posted in Collage & Photomontage, Female Artists, Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager with tags , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Liz Hager

Editor’s Note: While preparing two long Venetian Red posts on the life and work of photomontagist Hannah Höch, I couldn’t help but wonder about the nature of her artistic legacy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, since Höch is still relatively unknown outside curatorial circles, I didn’t find a lot of published material on this topic.  Admittedly, I’m skating on the thin ice of visual comparisons, so consider this more free form musing than formal documentation.

And I’ve saved a discussion of the distinctions between collage and photomontage for a different post. As a result, both artists who work with fragments of photographic images and whole images intact are included.

Finally, this is not an exhaustive survey, so, if you have additional “finds,” I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Click here for all Venetian Red entries on Hannah Höch.

By LIZ HAGER
© Liz Hager, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Hannah Höch, On With the Party, 1965
Photomontage, 10 7/16 x 13 3/4 inches
(Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart)

Although trained as a painter and equally skillful at graphic and textile design, Hannah Höch (1889-1978) is best-recognized for her thought-provoking photomontages, hundreds of images she patiently created through unparalleled dexterity in snipping and reassembling the photographs she sourced from mass-market magazines.

Höch, the only female member of the Berlin Dadaists (1916-22), played a vital role in legitimizing photomontage as a fine art form. Use of the technique piqued in the early 1930s. By the 1940s it all all but vanished from sight as a fine art medium, although it remained broadly popular as a format for advertising.

Hannah Höch, Industrial Landscape, 1967
Photomontage, 11 7/16 x 10 1/4 inches
(Landesbank Berlin)

With the emergence of commercial (silk) screen processes in the 1950s, fine artists once again adopted the photomontage technique. The new technology allowed artists to print images directly onto the paper or canvas substrate, thus liberating them from the manual look of the old “cut and paste” method. They in turn would fully exploited the slickness of the process.

Despite the popularity of the new medium, “cut and paste” photomontage was never completely supplanted.  Höch herself worked passionately in this method well into the 1960s, despite the fact that for long stretches of her career she remained out of the public eye. And others took up the standard and it remains a popular technique today.

Hannah Höch, Grotesque, 1963
Photomontage, 9 15/16 x 6 11/16
(Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart)

Thus, there seem to be two general lines of descent from Hannah Höch: those artists who work more or less in the original tradition she pioneered and those who, through the use of screen and later digital techniques, have pushed the montage effect into new visual territory and greater dimensionality.

Tried and True

Romare Bearden best demonstrates that the traditional form of photomontage is not outmoded as an effective form of communication.

Perhaps taking a cue from the early Dadaists, there is a political strain in their work. Séan Hillen, for example, plays the juxtaposition of elements to delightful (but serious) effect in creating postcard-sized “what-if” commentaries on the conflict in Northern Ireland and other of the world’s problems.

The team of (Peter)Kennard/Phillips pushes the political more overtly, in addition to engaging in interesting experiments with their materials. The work here is a portrait of George Bush printed across 58 copies of the Houston Chronicle, which were then torn through to reveal images of the destruction of the Iraqi people and their landscape.

There is an entire category of photographers who construct construct photomontage through the aggregation of negatives. (Thus the surface of the positive remains smooth like a traditional photograph.) Jerry N. Uelsmann began to assemble photographs this way beginning in the 1950s, influence ultimately by Lazlo Maholy-Nagy’s work. He has said: “When I studied photography at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) each darkroom had one enlarger. Then when I started teaching we had a group darkroom. I was still using one enlarger, which was labor intensive for multiple printing. One day while I was waiting for some prints to wash, I looked across at the enlargers and thought to myself that if I had the negatives in different enlargers and simply moved the paper, the speed with which I could explore things or line them up would increase a hundred times. That was the moment that changed the way I worked with multiple images.”

On a different note, Daniel Gordon, following the popular contemporary tradition of ever super-sized photographs, creates huge montaged faces.  Though they take direct visual queues from Höch in their constructions, their large physical presence assaults you. They almost repell you, whereas Höch’s intimate page-sized “portraits” draw you in for closer inspection.

And finally it seems that Bernie Stephanus has learned his Höch lesson well, though in general I don’t find his work as visually compelling as Höch’s.

Romare Bearden, Spring Way, 1964
Collage on paperboard sheet, 6 5/8 x 9 3/8 inches
(Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Jerry N. UelsmannUndiscovered Self, 1999
Photomontage (assembled from multiple negatives)

Seán Hillen, The Launchpad at O’Connell Street, Dublin (Irelantis series), 2005
Photomontage, 7.9 x 5.9 inches

KennardPhillips collaboration, Iraq Destroyed, 2007
Pigment ink on newspaper, 350 x 300 cm.

Hannah Höch, Russian Dancer/My Double, 1928
Photomontage, 12 x 8 7/8 inches
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Brunswick, Germany)

Daniel Gordon—Red Headed Woman, 2008 c-printDaniel Gordon, Red Headed Woman, 2008
C-print, 40 x 30 inches.

Bernie Stephanus, Ingresque, 1999

New New Things

The other species of artist expanded the boundaries of photomontage through the use of new media, the inclusion of found objects (even real world detritus), and a push into the third dimension. Many of their works achieve the frenetic appearance characteristic Höch’s Dada-era work.

Andy Warhol pushed silkscreen to his slickest height, where the hand of the artist wasn’t visible or even desired. (He was reputed to have said: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”) One might well question whether these are montages at all; but I think a legitimate argument could be made for a “serial image” subset of montage.

In his series of Combines (mid 1950s to early 1960s), Robert Rauschenberg reinvented collage. By combining repetitive silk screened images with paint and articles from his every day life (including trash), he blew apart the idea that art was an illusion of reality. For Rauschenberg the work of art was its own reality.

Joan Schulze is one of the best representatives of the group of fiber artists whose canvases are based on quilt structures. They come to photomontage already sensitized to the fragmentary and repetitive aspects of the picture plane. With origins in traditional “craft” environment these pieces, meant to be hung as paintings, present their own form of repudiation about the boundaries between fine and decorative art.

Andy Warhol, Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963
synthetic polymer, silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen,  90 x 80 in.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled, 1963
Oil, silkscreened ink, metal, and plastic on canvas, 82 x 48 x 6 1/4 inches
(Guggenheim Museum)

Joan Schulze, Aloha, 1980
Mixed media (on fabric),  26 x 22 inches.

It Looks Like a Duck. . .

David Hockney, Place Furstenberg, Paris, August 7, 8, 9, 1985, 1985
Photocollage, 35 x 31 1/2 inches

While it’s hard to imagine that Hockney’s photographic collages from the early 1980s could have come into being without the deconstructive example provided by Höch and the Dadaists, I can’t quite see them as a direct descendant (though perhaps a close cousin).  In their fracturing of the spatial plane, they owe more to Cubism than to Dada.

Hockney asserts that these works were born as a result of his loss of hearing at the time. He was forced to locate people in space using visual, rather than auditory, cues. This “reprocessing” led to a reconsideration of the notions of visual space. In these photo collages, Hockney creates a different concept of spacial dimension, but does not reconstitute the fragments into a new pictorial reality.

Wider Connections

From Papier Collé to Digital Collage (University of Washington online)
Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series— Photomontage
Don Hong-Oai‘s arresting composite photographs

David Hockney & the Chief Muse of the Brothers Grimm

Posted in Fine & Decorative Arts, Liz Hager, Printmaking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2009 by Liz Hager

david-hockney-grimms-inside-cover1

David Hockney, Catherina Dorothea Viehmann (frontispiece of Six Fairy Tales), 1969 etching/aquatint.

In 1970 David Hockney and Petersburg Press released Six Fairy Tales, a compilation of 39 etchings and the texts of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s fairy tales, including

Although there have been many subsequent translations and adaptations of the Brothers Grimm’s original 1812 volume, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), the texts in Hockney’s edition were re-translated from the (1962?) version released by  Manesse Verlag in Zürich. 

Hockney produced the portfolio in four separate editions of 100 with 15 artist’s proofs; the artist drew the images directly on copper plates, which were pulled at Petersburg Press.  The folios were hand sewn and bound into a blue leather slipcase. Additionally, each edition contained a discrete set of six etchings culled from the 39 illustratons, which were slipped loose into a pocket in the book’s slipcase. The artist also produced a separate portfolio (one edition of 100), in which each tale and its accompanying renderings where folded concertina-style and individually signed and numbered by the artist.

Sometime later, perhaps in the mid-70s, a trade edition of the book was released, both in full and miniature size. Although mass-produced,  the latter version possesses a precious, magical quality that is in in keeping with the spirit of the Medieval Volk-inspired tales. It’s a unique addition to any collection of illustrated children’s books.

david-hockney-grimms-spread-1

(Left) David Hockney, Boy Hidden in an Egg, 1969, etching/aquatint/drypoint. (Right) David Hockney, Boy Hidden in a Fish, 1969.

What inspired Hockney about The Brothers’ Grimm?  As Karen Armstrong points out in A Short History of Myth, a central purpose of myth is to show us “how to behave.” The Grimm tales are no exception. Chock-full of romance and rescue, familial conflict and truly gruesome violence, the tales are meant as manuals of manners, guides “out of the woods.”

 

david-hockney-grimms-spread-2

(Left) David Hockney, The Cook, 1969, etching/aquatint.. (Right) David Hokcney, The Pot Boiling, 1969, etching/aquatint.

Peter Webb, author of Portrait of David Hockney, illuminates Hockney’s motivation:

David Hockney had always loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales and had read all 220 of them. He also admired earlier illustrations to them by Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. In 1969 he decided to make his own images. He especially enjoyed the elements of magic in the tales, and his images focus on his imaginative response to the descriptions in the text rather than attempting to concentrate on the most important events in the narrative. They are therefore more than simply illustrations: they stand on their own as images, independent of the stories.

Unlike other illustrator’s renderings, which impart a beauteous overtone to the stories, through his own quirky rendering of characters and details, Hockney has managed to expertly capture the dark magic mood of the tales. Further, as The Cook and The Pot Boiling from “Fundevogel” brilliantly illustrate, the gruesome details need not always be depicted for us to grasp the sinister undertones of the story.  The artist’s depiction of the Enchantress in “Rapunzel” as an androgynous crone sends shivers up the spine. 

 

david-hockney-grimms-spread-4

 (Left) David Hockney, The Enchantress in Her Garden, 1969, etching/aquatint. (Right) David Hockney, The Enchantress with Baby Rapunzel, 1969, etching/aquatint/drypoint.

And what of Catherina Dorothea Viehmann, Hockney’s frontispiece portrait?  Few readers know that in the height of the Romantic Era the Grimms did not travel the German countryside transcribing stories from simple peasants, but relied on a small network of bourgeois female friends and acquaintances to retell the stories they had heard in various homes. As scholars, the Grimms put their own name on the books they edited, keeping the identity of their storytellers largely secret. In this way, on the eve of German patriotic rebirth after years of occupation by Napoleon’s government, the Grimms were able to maintain the conceit of a vast repository of German Volkskultur.

In the best oral tradition, women recited folk tales to each other to ward off the boredom of household chores and to instruct younger women on the proper way for women to behave. Over half of the 210 stories in the first edition were contributed by women. Family friend Marie Hassenpflug was responsible for “Sleeping Beauty” and “Red Riding Hood;” neighbor Dorchen Wild for “Rumpelstilzchen,” “The Six Swans” and “Frau Holle” (incidentally one of the Grimms’ most popular stories in Germany today). 

Ludwig Emil Grimm, Dorothea Viehmann, charcoal on paper, ca. 1814.

In the spring of 1813 the Brothers met Dorothea Viehmann, an impoverished widow, who by then would have been in her late 50s. The daughter of an innkeeper, Dorothea may have picked up stories as a girl from her mother and even the guests and tradespeople of her father’s inn. Viehmann possessed a photographic memory when it came to recounting the details of her stories; apparently she could stop mid-sentence and retrace a previous section word for word as she had already told it.  Wilhelm confessed: “She comes to visit at least once a week and unleashes (her stories). We take turns transcribing. . . and by now have (made) such lovely progress that we could probably deliver a second volume.” (letter from Wilhelm to his brother Ferdinand—translated by Valerie Paradiz, Clever Maids, pp. 151-152).

In all Dorothea Viehmann contributed over 40 stories, to the Grimms’ second volume,  including “Cinderella,” “The Goose Maid” and “The Devil with Three Golden Hairs.” Ironically, Viehmann’s heritage was French Huguenot, so the likely origin of her stories was not Germany at all. 

The Grimm family included two other brothers. Ludwig Emil became an artist, who among other endeavors illustrated his brothers’ fairy tale books. In the 1819 edition of Children’s and Household Fairy Tales, his portrait of Dorothea Viehmann appeared as the frontispiece, although one wonders with what attribution. When David Hockney re-instated Viehmann to her position as Chief Muse for the Brothers Grimm, he revealed a part of the Grimms’ own secret history. 

Wider Connections

David Hockney

Culturistas on David Hockney

The Annotated Brothers Grimm—Essays by A.S. Byatt; 150 illustrations by artists including George Cruikshank, Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham.

Bruno Bettelheim—The Uses of Enchantment

Valerie Paridiz—Clever Maids: The Secret History of The Grimm Fairy Tales 

Brothers Grimm background

Manesse Codex (translated and transcribed by Jacob Grimm)


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