Artists

1960-1969

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Provenance

M. Knoedler & Co, New York
Waddington Galleries, London
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
Waddington Galleries, London
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Private Collection, UK
Private Collection, UK

Description

'California did affect me very strongly. When I first went there- I went at the end of 1963- I went there with the intention of staying for six months to paint there, I didn't know a soul there. Somehow I instinctively knew I was going to like it. And as I flew over San Bernardino and looked down - and saw the swimming pools and the houses and everything and the sun, I was more thrilled than I'd ever been arriving at any other city, including New York, and when I was there those first six months I thought it was really terrific, I really enjoyed it, and physically the place did have an effect on me. For the first time I began to paint the physical look of the place. It took me a couple of years to do it much more realistically. The thing is I love glamour places. I love going to places that have glamour. So any place that's new for me is good.[1] After the unanimous success of his three London shows in 1963 and at the encouragement of friend Henry Geldzahler, the curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Hockney travelled to California. Although his first visit would last less than a year, he decided to use Los Angeles as his base throughout the sixties and, by the end of the decade, had become identified as the painter of Southern California. Everything about California; the sense of glamour, the climate, the people and the sexual freedom (sex between men remained illegal in London until 1967) appealed to the artist. By the end of his first week in Los Angeles Hockney had passed his driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas, rented a studio and started painting. By his own admission it was, '…just how I imagined it would be.'[2] California naturally had a huge impact on Hockney's art. The artist recalls the ease with which one was able to interact with other young and contemporary artists, the significant people he made contact with, and the collector's houses that he visited with his London dealer, Kasmin. California as both a location and theme is responsible for many of Hockney's most notable early works, California Art Collector (1964), the swimming pool 'cycle', Beverly Hills Housewife, 1966 and American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman), 1968. The vast, openness of the landscape and the freedom for exploration that Hockney enjoyed in California is articulated in his work, and drawings like Ballroom, Santa Cruz, survive as mementos of this time. In fact, it was not until Hockney moved to California that he began to paint and draw the actual scenes that he encountered around him, his work in turn becoming far more visual and its appeal more immediate. Prior to this his work was mostly created from composite motifs that he had imagined or plucked from other sources. 'In 1965 or 66 I began to paint California as it really appeared to me. In 1965, for instance, I had been in Colorado when I did that picture of the Rocky Mountains. But I invented it. It wasn't how it appeared. It was how I thought they might appear, in a geography book or something. The ideas were still really artistic in that way and I think that I just felt at times that they should become more…instead of being inward, I wanted them to become more outward a bit, and become more about life as it was.'[3] The Ballroom, Santa Cruz, through its depiction of a real scene encountered, is a wonderful example of this desire. Yet whilst, Hockney wanted to make his art less about invention, it still cleverly manages to articulate the artist's ideas concerning the themes in modern art at the time. Very much a figurative painter, yet educated at the Royal College of Art when the work of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were the mainstays in contemporary art, Hockney's dialogue with 'modern art' as a concept has been a complex and unique one. Although Hockney recognized the potential of the 'mark making' of non-figurative practice, he was not willing to abandon the representational possibilities of those marks. Instead his practice began to synthesise both. In Santa Cruz, Ballroom, forms become highly stylized and flattened. Hockney had been impressed by the anonymous style of Ancient art 'like the Egyptian or Byzantines' and in this drawing the forms, paired down to their very essence by black lines that scratch into the white surface, do recall this. At the same time, the clean, economical lines recall a far more minimalist, modern style. Hockney's work synthesizes styles from throughout art history recognising the intrinsic relationship between them all, a relationship that an autonomous approach to 'modern art' often failed to acknowledge. To this end, Hockney's predilection for drawing represented a challenge to the more painterly preferences of other contemporary artists of the time. His ability to utilise the more traditional skill of draughtsmanship allowed him, in his view, a greater freedom and more means by which to create and approach the creation of images. As he explained in 1976, 'Tomorrow if I want, I could get up, I could do a drawing of someone, I could draw my mother from memory, I could even paint a strange little abstract picture…A lot of painters can't do that - their concept is completely different. It's too narrow; they make it much too narrow. A lot of them, like Frank Stella, who told me so, he can't draw at all. To me, a lot of painters were trapping themselves; they were picking such a narrow aspect of painting and specializing in it. And it's a trap.'[4] 'I feel I am an eclectic artist, there's nothing stopping me now from painting almost anything, even just some stripes if I want, it can all fit in with a view…there's great scope for trying now to make the diversity of modernism a synthesis.'[5] Hockney's drawings from this early period, such as The Ballroom, Santa Cruz present a sophisticated understanding of the concepts involved within the history of art and a strong formative vision of what his art should represent. They equally survive as wonderfully stylized mementos of a hugely productive and important period within the artist's working career. [1] Mark Glazebrook, 'David Hockney, An Interview,' David Hockney, Paintings, prints and drawings, 1960- 1970, exhibition catalogue, The Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1970, p.11 [2] David Hockney, David Hockney, My Early Years, ed Nikos Stangos, Thames and Hudson, 1976, p.97 [3] Mark Glazebrook, 'David Hockney, An Interview,' David Hockney, Paintings, prints and drawings, 1960- 1970, exhibition catalogue, The Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1970, p.9 [4] David Hockney, David Hockney, My Early Years, ed Nikos Stangos, Thames and Hudson, 1976, p.97 [5] Ibid, p.130