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David Hockney: Paintings 2006-2009

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Strolling into a Fifth Avenue or Chelsea gallery on a crisp November day and catching the latest work of world-class artists is one of the great pleasures of living in New York. Fall is when the big guns are on display, from Frank Stella to one of my favorites, David Hockney, whose first exhibition of new paintings in New York in over 12 years is now on view.

Hockney has been bucking the trends of modern art since the 1960s. First, in London, by embracing figurative painting when abstract art was riding high, then, in 1978, by transplanting himself to Hollywood, at a time when the art scene revolved around London and New York.

Hockney’s hard-to-resist work and maverick ways have only brought him increasing fame and success. He’s particularly admired for his portraits and series of “Swimming Pool” paintings, one of which sold last May at Christie’s New York for $7.9 million.

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(Hawthorne Blossom, Woldgate No. 4 Image)

Hockney, now 72, has continued to explore a variety of artistic forms and mediums, from painting and drawing to photography and printmaking. He has embraced cutting-edge technologies, from photocopiers and computers to, most recently, the iPhone. He also took time away from painting to pursue a controversial theory about how 15th century artists created their work. It led to the publication in 2002 of his book, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.

Hockney’s latest passion— inspired by a move back to his native Yorkshire— is landscape painting, and he has gone at it with his usual gusto and passion. Fourteen new landscape oils, never before exhibited, plus fourteen others first shown in a major German museum, are now on view at two Pace Wildenstein Galleries—one at 32 East 57th Street, the other in Chelsea at 534 West 25th Street. The show just opened and will run through December 24th.

The first thing to be said about all of Hockney’s work is that it tends to be joyful and full of seductive color. Angst does not seem to be part of his make up. However the color palette of these oil paintings is dramatically different from and somewhat darker than his luminous California acrylics. Some, like Hawthorne Blossom, Woldgate No. 4. have a somewhat eerie quality to them.

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(Woldgate Woods, 30 March -21 April, 2006 Image)

Though Hockney has veered away from photography back to painting, his love of digital technology is evident. Some of these paintings, especially his panoramas, began as photographs; some were initially composed on a Macintosh; and a number of his huge, museum-sized works are made up of smaller canvases which Hockney seamlessly fits together, as if inspired by photo-stich software.

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(Bigger Trees Near Warter, Summer 2008)

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(Bigger Trees Near Warter, Winter 2008)

In two of my favorite paintings, Spring and Summer views of a copse of trees, Bigger Trees Nearer Warter, he uses nine smaller canvases to make up the whole image. Hung side-by-side in Pace’s Chelsea gallery, the two canvases, though dissimilar in significant ways, share a similar perspective. They seem to place you, the viewer, in the driver’s seat of a car approaching a divided road between which the “woods” abruptly rise, almost loom.

Many of Hockney’s landscapes share this “you-are-entering-the-painting” perspective, including Hawthorne Blossom, Woldgate No.4 and Winter Timber. Some would say there is a photographic feel to this perspective. At the very least, it’s part of the artist’s on-going dialogue with the medium, one that continues, even subliminally, to inform his work.

All in all, this is intensely seen and highly dramatic painting. It’s a must-see for Hockney fans, and worth a look for those not yet familiar with his considerable charms.

Eleanor Foa Dienstag, one of the first female speechwriters on Wall Street, won a variety of awards as chief speechwriter for the CEO of a major financial-services company. Since starting her own corporate communications business, she’s written for a variety of CEOs and senior executives in the travel, publishing, banking, beverage, fashion, retail and hospitality industries. She particularly enjoys working with female executives. She also lectures on the art of speechwriting to public relations professionals. For an overview of her work, go to: www.eleanorfoa.com

David Hockney: Paintings 2006-2009
PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street & 534 West 25th Street
On view through December 24, 2009

1. Winter Timber, 2009
oil on 15 canvases
overall: 9′ x 20′ (274.3 cm x 609.6 cm)
15 canvases, each: 36″ x 48″ (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm)
© 2009 David Hockney
Photo by: Jonathan Wilkinson

2. Hawthorne Blossom, Woldgate No. 4, 2009
oil on canvas
36″ x 48″ (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm)
© 2009 David Hockney
Photo by: Jonathan Wilkinson

2. Woldgate Woods, 30 March – 21 April, 2006
oil on 6 canvases
overall: 6′ x 12′ (182.9 cm x 365.8 cm), overall
6 canvases, each: 36″ x 48″ (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm)
© 2009 David Hockney
Photo by: Richard Schmidt

3. Bigger Trees nearer Warter, Summer 2008, 2008
oil on 9 canvases
9′ x 12′ (274.3 cm x 365.8 cm), overall
36″ x 48″ (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm), 9 canvases each
© 2009 David Hockney
Photo by: Richard Schmidt

4. Bigger Trees Near Water, Winter 2008
oil on 9 canvases
overall: 9′ x 12′ (274.3 cm x 365.8 cm)
9 canvases, each: 36″ x 48″ (91.4 cm x 121.9 cm)
© 2009 David Hockney
Photo by: Richard Schmidt

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