Despite the fact that this show will close in about seven days, The David Hockney retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum was packed to the gills.
Usually, the best time to see an art show is long after opening night, where you can stand in a gallery and look at a painting for several seconds without interruption or without being aware of people. It's nice to get lost in art.
Very few things are more annoying than someone walking in front of you while viewing a painting, and rest assured - I annoyed as many people as annoyed me at this David Hockney show. I was only able to get the photos for this article because I am fairly tall and I can hold my iPhone high above everyone else.
Solitude is just not going to happen at a David Hockney show. He's too wildly famous. He's too good. And more, he has something for everyone.
Hockney's earliest paintings shown in the show aren't even depicted here - the first gallery after entering the exhibit happened to collect the worst Hockneys I have ever seen, pieces that the artist had done as a young art student that were quite bad.
I wish I had taken a couple photos of the 'Bad Hockneys' to prove that there is Life after Art School, but, everyone already knows that, I hope. If anything, the muddy gray Bad Hockneys existed solely to help attendees appreciate the later Hockney even more.
Hockney made a couple of these shower paintings, a resplendently gay take on bather motifs from Degas.
With Hockney it's easy to forget he is using acrylic paint, and as he was painting the above Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy in the early 70s, he would have been one of the earliest painters working successfully with the medium.
Though just as bright and as pigmented as oil, fast-drying acrylic doesn't blend or save itself for later. Acrylic favors fast thinkers, fast action, and commitment. If you make a mistake in acrylic, you have to paint over the mistake with no blendability into the bottom failed layer - and mistakes can stack up quickly.
In these realistic paintings, Hockney is a master of drybrushing and scumbling acrylic in order to create atmospheric light. The wall behind Mr. Clark isn't a plain brown, but a sienna with slate blue and green brushed over in smoky clusters.
As you get closer to these large paintings, the imperfections show up a bit more - the checkered backing of the chair isn't made up of perfect Lichtensteinian dots. The base of the lamp above is a bit wonky, but the phone is entirely convincing. This is Hockney's magic - not everything is perfect, but we know enough, and we are impressed enough by the color, to let it slide.
This Hockney Pool painting, or as I refer to it in my mind: "The most SoCal Thing That Has Ever Existed" allows similar up-close imperfections to emerge. I always thought of the painting as a realistic piece, but for some reason, in person, it is more like looking at a painting of a unicorn.
The unicorn feeling is less present in the pool painting below, given the absence of any fancy people.
The show also collected some of Hockney's drawings. Hockney is great at capturing faces, hands, feelings, and fashion. In the three drawings below, each sitter has incredibly expressive hands.
In the book "That's Thee Way I See It" Hockney discusses a series of painted portraits he made of his friends, eventually revealing that none of his friends really liked the paintings he had made of them. These drawings I feel must be different than the paintings, I feel that these subjects must have really liked the drawings. Either that, or they must have been difficult to impress!
The show included a couple of Hockney's paintings of the Grand Canyon - both perfect in the way that the canyon takes up the entire canvas, and the sky is just a small stripe of blue, if anything. I had to love Hockney's use of pale purple and blue on the red canyon walls.
In Hockney's more abstract landscapes, it's hard to know exactly what is going on. The primary and high-key colors attack the eyes.
Abstractions considered, we all know that Hockney can reel it in with landscape paintings like the one above. Overall that is what I like most about Hockney's work - it's studied, it knows where it is going, yet it is also so free.