Last week had the opportunity to visit LACMA and barely made to the closing of the show of David Hockey’s exhibit. I’d been a fan of his work for a long time, and having his work display in our city, couldn’t let this opportunity past and so I went. I was impressed as always with his work, but loved that I was able to see more details up-close. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.
British artist David Hockney (b. 1937) has lived in Los Angeles off and on for nearly 40 years. In 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life, which was exhibited at LACMA offered a vibrant and intimate view of the various people who fill his world. None of the portraits were commissioned, and his subjects are from all walks of life: Hockney invited family members, fellow artists, art dealers, curators, employees, close friends, and acquaintances to sit for him over a period of two or three days. He painted the single still-life in the exhibition when one of the sitters had to reschedule her appointment.
The majority of the 82 portraits, which Hockney considers one body of work, were created between 2013 and 2016 in the artist’s Hollywood Hills studio. All were painted in acrylic on 48 × 36” canvases, with the artist’s subjects seated in the same yellow armchair against a blue background, which Hockney adjusted depending on the sitter’s clothing. Each painting was executed within three days, which, in a wry commentary on photography, Hockney calls “a 20-hour exposure.”
And yet, despite these similarities, each picture is remarkably different: some sitters are more introverted, while others are more extroverted; some are dressed up, while others wear their casual daily attire; a few are children and several are in their eighties. By focusing on his sitters’ facial expressions, their body language, and aspects of their dress, Hockney reveals compelling insights into their distinctive personalities. Though portraiture has been an important part of Hockney’s practice throughout his long career, such a concentrated exploration of the genre is especially relevant today, reaffirming the significance of the painted portrait in an age in which selfies have permeated our lives.