David Hockney (b.1937) is one of Yorkshire’s most famous artistic exports. He has remained a unique and vital voice on the contemporary art scene for over six decades, celebrated for his playful and witty approach to image making and endless curiosity for new techniques. Ever experimental, the works in this exhibition follow Hockney over a fifteen year period; from youthful beginnings at the Royal College of Art in London, to seminal journeys to New York and Los Angeles, where he relished in the dynamic energy and comparative sexual freedom he discovered in the USA.
Several important themes emerge through the work presented in Gallery One. First is an emphasis on autobiographical elements, such as the artist’s nascent homosexuality. This is at first subtly hinted at in ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’ (1961), via the graffiti-esque line from a poem by the gay literary icon Constantine Cavafy, and the name of Hockney’s college crush ‘Peter’ on the male figure. By 1964 he felt free to address his sexuality more overtly in his image of a young man showering, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’, in which the nude is lifted directly from a photo in a pornographic magazine he owned. Another enduring influence on his work is that of literature and visual storytelling, as seen in his ‘Six fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm’ (1969) and ‘The Blue Guitar’ (1976-77), in which he interpreted the poem by Wallace Stevens. Hockney is in constant dialogue with his art historical predecessors; ‘A Rake’s Progress’ (1961-63) is a reimagining of Hogarth’s famous series. He quotes directly from older paintings by masters including Carpaccio, Picasso, and Matisse or updates longstanding motifs such as the bather of Cezanne or the Garden of Eden in a more personal contemporary vein.
Hockney has followed in the footsteps of his great hero Picasso, to become one of the most versatile practitioners of the graphic arts of the last century. The artist’s deep commitment to printmaking was cemented in these early years and his work in print is a key part of his broader practice. The etchings, lithographs and screenprints on display introduce us to a veritable who’s who of the international printmaking world of ateliers, master printers and publishers: John Kasmin, Editions Alecto, Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio, Ken Tyler and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Maurice Payne, Petersburg Press, Gemini G.E.L. and Aldo Crommelynck.
Together these artworks form a fascinating portrait of the young Hockney’s literary and art historical influences, personal life and artistic evolution. The exhibition will comprise loans and artworks for sale from the collection of Gerrish Fine Art.