Review: David Hockney’s latest addition: “photographic drawings” and delicious paintings



Something new from the insatiably curious mind and waving hands of David Hockney is always an opportunity.

“Something new in painting (and photography) [and even Printing] … Suite ”, as his show at LA Louver is called, raises expectations to a level close to daring.

What Hockney is looking for here is a whole new way to represent three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. It’s a bone he’s gnawed at since his early years as a painter, and he’s only cared about it since he ventured into photography and studied composition optics. and perspective assisted by objective.

In the 1980s, Hockney made a series of large, casual photo collages, unified scenes constructed from hundreds of progressively changing views taken over time. The new “photographic drawings” are in a way revisits, more sophisticated and more technological, but much less fresh.

To create the two massive rooms in the main gallery, Hockney photographed friends and colleagues individually, then digitally stitched the images together to create a fictional scene. In “Pictures at an Exhibition”, rows of folding chairs, some full and some not, face us towards a wall adorned with paintings by Hockney. The other scene looks largely the same, except that the characters face a mirror that sends them back. The situation flaunts the ability of the special camera used to record each subject in the round.

Painters and photographers have long produced such composite portraits. (On Tuesday, the Getty opened an exhibition dedicated to a pioneer of artificial montage in photography, Oscar Rejlander [1813-1875]). The immersive scale of Hockney’s work and the advanced imaging techniques involved are certainly impressive factors, but what remains after the novelty is recorded is awkward, parched hyper-realism.

No matter how ingenious the design of the works, the subjects stand or sit in the pseudo-space like self-contained paper dolls with crisp edges. There’s plenty of candy: the recognizable characters inside, including Hockney himself; the fake graffiti – “3D without glasses” – scrawled on a wall; the shy spatial configuration that makes us observe others observing themselves observing. Hockney put together a fancy performance, but the show is slim and the fun surprisingly brief.

David Hockney, “Spinning Top in a Theatrical Landscape … Aren’t They All?” 2018. Acrylic on nine canvases (24 inches by 36 inches each), 80 inches by 116 inches in total.

(Richard Schmidt / David Hockney)

I can happily report that there are recent paintings nearby. In these, too, Hockney engages in the bewildering practice of portraying the roundness of life on a flat surface, but instead of trying to master the mystery, he indulges in it, lush. Each painting is made up of nine canvases in a three-by-three grid, evoking both the discontinuities of the collage and a unique view through multiple panes.

Hockney is here at his exuberant best, making his daily walk to the studio a fantastic journey and transforming floral still lifes into vibrant revelry in tangerine, grape, royal blue, lavender, mint green and sunflower yellow. The stairs go all over the place, like an Escher fun house, and sometimes are just flat stripes.

In this intelligent and delectable theater of shapes, colors and illusions, what Hockney offers to the eyes and to the mind is inexhaustible. I have perhaps never enjoyed Hockney’s paintings so much. I know that I have never less appreciated his photographs.

LA Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. Open Tuesday to Saturday, until March 23. (310) 822-4955,

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