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ABOUT THE ARTIST This month's featured artist, David Hockney, came to fame and critical acclaim by making paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, yet he's actually from the other side of the pond. Born in Bradford, England, in 1937, David Hockney showed artistic talent at an early age; at 11 he decided to become an artist. In high school, he spent his time avoiding homework by drawing for the school magazine. Upon graduation, he worked as a hospital orderly for two years before enrolling in the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. There, he met R.B. Kitaj, and began to produce abstracted figural compositions influenced by Dubuffet. Of his early days at the college, Hockney wrote:

"Immediately after I started at the Royal College I realized that there were two groups of students there: a traditional group, who carried on as they had done in art school, doing still life, life painting and figure compositions; and then what I thought of as the more adventurous, lively students, the brightest ones, who were involved in the art of their time."

Hockney was certainly part of the latter group. He began to exhibit regularly, winning many prizes and acknowledgements. After graduating from the RCA with a gold medal, Hockney began to travel throughout Europe. In 1963, he headed west for New York City, where he met Andy Warhol and other influential art-world figures.

1964 was a pivotal year, as Hockney made his first trip to Los Angeles: the city that would eventually become his permanent home and provide inspiration for many of his most noted works. While in L.A. he began to work in acrylics, and made the first of his swimming pool paintings. From this year through 1967, Hockney taught art at various American colleges and universities, including the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of California.

In 1967 he produced what would become iconic images of late 20th-century painting: A Bigger Splash and A Lawn Being Sprinkled. He also purchased a 35mm camera, and began using it to record imagery for later use. In 1970, the first retrospective of his work opened in London.

The 1970s was another creative decade. Hockney began working more with printmaking--etching and lithography--and set design. In 1976, the artist delved more deeply into photography. The next year, he published his autobiography, David Hockney by David Hockney (Harry N. Abrams).

In 1978, Hockney moved to Los Angeles and made the city his permanent home. Of this experience, he wrote, "Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I'd passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week. And I thought, it's just how I imagined it would be."

Two years later, he completed a 20-foot-wide canvas depicting Santa Monica Boulevard. He continued to work in this panoramic scale and ultimately completed the seminal work, Mulholland Drive (1980). In 1982 Hockney began to focus his attention on Polaroid photography and, inspired by Cubism. began collaging the small-format photos into unified images. In a 1983 lecture, Hockney praised this method that enabled him to depict "many points of focus and many moments." Pearblossom Highway (1986) was the culmination of this technique, and remains one of Hockney's most recognizable works.

As a "working artist," David Hockney elevates the term to new heights. In addition to working with traditional materials, such as oils, acrylics, watercolors and charcoal, the artist has experimented with unconventional materials and tools, such as the photocopier, fax machine and the iPhone. He is the author of many books, including Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters (Studio; 2001), in which he explains how Renaissance painters used mirrors, lenses and the camera lucida to achieve two-point perspective and other optical depictions.

ABOUT THE PAINTING David Hockney painted this month's Clip & Save Art Print after his relationship with partner Peter Schlesinger ended. In his 1977 autobiography, David Hockney by David Hockney, the artist described this period in his life:

"The truth is I was so unhappy, there was nothing to do but work. That was when I started staying in. I didn't go out much; I just worked and I began the Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) all from September on. Whereas with Peter I often went out on an evening, from then on I didn't. For about three months I was painting 14, 15 hours a day. There was nothing else I wanted to do. It was a way of coping with life. It was very lonely; I was incredibly lonely."

Schlesinger, pictured standing above the swimmer, is depicted fully dressed and, although an integral part of the composition, he remains apart in mood and action. "The emotional distance implied between the swimmer and the clothed figure speak volumes," the swimmer exposed and vulnerable to the gaze of the clothed voyeur intensifies the silence of the moment. Extremely poetic and rich with emotional significance the work is an amalgam of transparent metaphors and personal allegory." (Source:

This painting is characteristic of Hockney's canvases that are set in the hills above L.A. The artist's fascination with the pool's blue expanse of color, the clear California light and its bleaching effect on the stone patio, the play of light and shadow on water, and the vivid colors and rich foliage of the Hollywood Hills are aspects of Hockney's oeuvre that have repeatedly appeared in his artwork over five decades.

"Hockney is an artist who really defined the way we see Los Angeles--he created a whole aesthetic territory. Whether it's the swimming pools, the mountains, the clear air, the bright colors--these are things that Hockney, in his vision, crystallized and made visible." These words, spoken by Jeremy Strick, former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, describe the artist's body of Los Angeles paintings, but they could just as easily describe this month's featured painting.

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Author:Carroll, Colleen
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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