Artist Spotlight: David Hockney

October 10, 2017

Since the 1950s, David Hockney has been producing works that embrace an idiom of exuberance, while consistently pushing the envelope in terms of the potential for technology to uniquely engage, explore, and enable different modes of artistic expression. “I don’t think there are any borders when it comes to painting,” he once conceded. “I’ve always thought that. There are no frontiers, just art.” Although most widely associated with his semi-abstract representational artworks that capture and unabashedly celebrate the eternal sunshine of California culture in all its glorious hedonism and brazen super ciality, Hockney has consistently pioneered the use of unconventional media and technology in the creation of his works, which he himself refers to under the umbrella term of drawings, regardless of the media they engage. That Hockney would refer to a photocollage or an opera set as a drawing makes sense when taken in the context of his sustained interest in the status of images and their ability to make meaning—a drawing, in its most basic sense, is an attempt to reproduce or represent an object or idea in translated form. As a whole, Hockney’s oeuvre—which encompasses almost every medium thinkable—reflects this ongoing preoccupation with the exploration of wildly different modes of perception and representation vis-à-vis the shifting nature and influence of images.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 54, David Hockney, An Image of Gregory (from Moving Focus), 1984-1985
October 22, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

In the mid-1970s Hockney began experimenting with photography and other mechanical, reproductive media, such as fax machines and laser photocopiers, and would go on to create his celebrated Polaroid photocollages and gridded snapshot prints. Effectively transcending the two-dimensionality of photography, Hockney’s photocollages and snapshot prints are composite, fragmented images offering multi-perspective portraits of people and places using a medium that had, at the time, been widely associated with strict reproduction. “How difficult it is to learn not to see like cameras,” Hockney once admitted. “The camera sees everything at once. We don’t. There’s a hierarchy. Why do I pick out that thing, that thing, that thing?” Essentially turning Walter Benjamin’s famous verdict of mechanical reproduction and its repercussions for works of art on its head, Hockney’s photographic works engage reproductive technology in a highly subjective manner that returns agency to artist and viewer alike.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 55, David Hockney, Walking Past Two Chairs (from Moving Focus), 1984-1986
October 22, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Hockney’s experimentation with photography and other reproductive technologies would go on to significantly influence his work in other media, including paintings and prints. In the 1980s he began producing works that would start as drawings, which he would then print and further manipulate. Occasionally including photocopies of actual objects, he dubbed these works “Home Made Prints.” Hockney’s work with reproductive technologies, which necessitate a simpliflcation of volumes, would also eventually lead him to return to the loosely abstract aesthetic which had characterized his earlier work. This shift is evident in lithographs such as Walking Past Two Chairs (from Moving Focus) (Lot 55) and An Image of Gregory (Lot 54), both of which explore the dynamic between objective observation and representation drawn from memory and impressions, much in the same way that Cubism does. “Memory must be part of vision, because everything is now. The past is now,” Hockney once asserted. “Because each of us has a different memory, this proves to me that objective vision cannot be. When you look at this, you remember that you’ve seen things like it before. Your memory comes in and forms part of it, contradicting the objectivity of vision.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Lot 56, David Hockney, Four Part Spline (from Some New Prints), 1993-1994
October 22, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Like many other artworks produced by Hockney during the 1980s and 1990s, Walking Past Two Chairs (from Moving Focus) (Lot 55) utilized the “Mylar Layering System,” an innovative printing technique developed by pioneering printmaker Kenneth Tyler. This technique involved drawing directly on Mylar sheets with deeply pigmented crayons and inks. A single color is used on each of the individual sheets, which are then layered on top of one another and pressed together to produce a single print. This layering process seems particularly apropos for a work by Hockney, given his sustained preoccupation with the relationship between objectivity, subjective impression, and the representative capacity of images. “In the end nobody knows how it’s done — how art is made.” “It can’t be explained. Optical devices are just tools. Understanding a tool doesn’t explain the magic of creation. Nothing can.”

Lot Information:

Lot 54
David Hockney
An Image of Gregory (from Moving Focus)
Lithograph and collage on TGL handmade paper in two parts in the artist’s original painted sculptural frames
#7 of 18 artist’s proofs aside from the edition of 75
Published by Tyler Graphics, Mt. Kisco
Signed and dated in graphite lower right corner of top sheet; edition in roman numerals lower left of top sheet; retains Tyler Graphics blind stamp to lower right corner of top sheet and lower right corner of bottom sheet
Top: Image/sheet: 31.5″ x 25″; Frame: 37.5″ x 30.5″; Bottom: Image/sheet: 45.5″ x 35″; Frame: 52″ x 41″; Overall: 87.875″ x 41″; (Overall: 223 x 104 cm)
Literature: David Hockney Prints 1954-1995. 1996. #276.; Tyler Graphics: Catalogue Raisonné: 1974-1985. K. Tyler. 1987. #285:DH72.
Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000

Lot 55
David Hockney
Walking Past Two Chairs (from Moving Focus)
Color lithograph on White TGL handmade paper overlaid with screenprint on Plexiglas in the artist’s original painted sculptural frame
#11 of 38
Published by Tyler Graphics, Ltd., Mt. Kisco
Signed and dated lower right edge of sheet; edition lower left
Image/sheet: 21.5″ x 39.5″; Frame: 28.25″ x 46″; (Image/sheet: 55 x 100 cm)
Provenance: Elizabeth Levine & Associates, Larchmont, New York; Private Collection, Greenwich, Connecticut (acquired directly from the above, 1986)
Literature: David Hockney Prints 1954-1995. 1996. #275.
Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000

Lot 56
David Hockney
Four Part Spline (from Some New Prints)
44-color lithograph and screenprint on four sheets of Arches 88 paper
#11 of 48
Published and printed by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles
Signed, titled, and dated with edition in graphite lower right sheet in image; inscribed “First part” upper left sheet in margin; “Second part” upper right; “Third part” lower left
Image: 47″ x 64″; Sheet: 49″ x 66″; Frame: 53″ x 70″; (Image: 119 x 163 cm)
Gemini G.E.L. #23.97
Literature: David Hockney Prints 1954-1995. 1996. #334.
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000

For A Complete List of Available Works By Hockney, Click Here

Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Prism Key Press, 1936.
Feeney, Mark. “David Hockney Keeps Seeking New Avenues of Exploration.” Boston Globe, 26 Feb. 2006.
Gayford, Martin. “Hockney’s World of Pictures.” Tate Etc., 2017, Web.
Gayford, Martin. “Hockney and the Secrets of the Old Masters.” The Telegraph, 22 Sept. 2001, Web.
Joyce, Paul. Hockney on Art: Conversations with Paul Joyce. Little Brown, 1999.

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