The Hockney exhibit at the MET flows directly from the Michelangelo exhibit. (Check out my blog on ‘Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer’ to take a look at some of his works there!) The contrast from the Italian master to this British Pop Expressionist is alarming. The grace and elegance juxtaposed with his crudely drawn and almost vulgar subject matter makes it blaring. Of the first works you come upon ‘Love Painting’ looks like an offensive attempt and mockery of art. Without any distinguishable form, basic shapes, streaky lines and dirty appearance, you would find yourself aghast in comparison to the divine Michelangelo. ‘My Brother is Only Seventeen’ has the word ‘cum’ written on it. Self-described as ‘gay propaganda’ the title’s referential age and dark colors stir uncomfortable feelings of disgust. Why has the MET put this contrition in its spaces? ‘Cleaning Teeth, Early Evening (10pm) W11’ is sensational. Two grotesquely drawn figures lie 69 as tubes of Colgate drawn over where their genitalia would be with toothpaste coming into a black teethed mouth. The figure seems to be chained to the bed.
Collage is a technique used by artists in creating their work. It’s comprised by cut out and layering, joining pictures one over the other. ‘Pearblossom HWY’ is where one begins to forget the lingering prowess of the Italian master. The thousands of photographs that must have been taken to synthesize ‘Pearblossom’ must have been staggering. Layer upon layers of photos expand and crunch an intersection. Space is distorted and surreal but easy to read and comprehend. Much like ‘American Beauty’s iconic scene of a plastic bag floating in the wind, Hockney has somehow made cans, bottles of alcohol, rubbish and trash, beautiful, elevated. The whole by its parts have become something else altogether. It is a fine piece of work.
The third room houses portraits in row. Fun ‘New Yorker’esque drawings of his friends and family. They all look so familiar and executed well. Few straggly lines abound, each clear, precise in its mark. Color blocked paintings of his close relations stand all most boringly in place. A maturity is present in his work. No more blurred lines and implied graphic vulgarity. Now, there is an almost stoic approach to his paintings. The palette is simple and bright. Decoration of the canvas is minimal in approach. Composition is squarish and rectangular. A quiet idyllism in its minimalism and color is almost humorous and playful. The same hand is there in the formation of the figure but more purposeful less undone and blotted.
Around the corner is an unexpected explosion of saturated color. Sharp reds, deep blues, lush greens, bright yellows all leap off the canvas and walls excited, rushing up to greet you. There is no space to get away from the color. A vibrancy and almost dangerous approach burst onto one’s retina. Only a truly joyful individual could employ such color. He is unabashed with his color. ‘Nichols Canyon’ is a case study of Hockney. Flat yet receding the colors dance off each other without any care to intact color theory. It is a masterful approach to color. Slight degrees in tone and hue give the illusion of space and light. Absolutely delightful.
Of the many works the MET has of Hockney’s progression, ‘A Bigger Interior with Blue Terrace’ culminates the apex of his evolution as he experiments with the boundaries of the frame. ‘A Bigger Interior with Blue Terrace’ does not have the typical rectangular frame but instead an elongated pentangle; respectively. When you step closely to the painting the corners of the painting envelope you with its fish eye design and you feel as if you are on the terrace looking down on all the lush greenery below. Exceptional and magical! The interactive nature of the work, as an experience elevates one’s idea about art’s impact and moves forward the envelope for other artists to follow.