This weekend we’re checking out David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring at Pace Gallery in Chelsea. After the show, we’ll climb up a couple stories and take a walk on the High Line. Update: the Hockney show closed on November 1st. To stay updated on what's going on right now, sign up for our #YourArtWeekend newsletter here.
THE ART /
David Hockney is almost eighty years old, and has been a highly successful painter for decades. His work is in the permanent collection of MoMA, the Met, the Getty in Los Angeles, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate in London, and pretty much every other museum with a serious twentieth century collection. With this kind of success, at his age, most of us would be kicking back in a beach house in Florida. But Hockney is not like most of us. After he suffered a stroke in 2012 that impaired his ability to speak, he told a reporter, "so long as I can draw and paint, I'm okay, I'm alright. I don't have to talk much anyway."
This show at Pace, "Arrival of Spring," finds the septuagenarian Englishman as forward-looking as ever. The exhibit is divided into three distinct parts, each focused on a different medium but with a similar subject matter -- rural lanes overgrown with trees from the East Yorkshire countryside near Hockney’s home. The first room is devoted to "Woldgate, The Arrival of Spring in 2013 (twenty thirteen)," a series of black and white charcoal drawings, each from a different day between January and May of that year. The entrance to the second, larger area features "Woldgate Woods, November 26th," a video installation of nine slightly-disconnected shots moving down a rural road that together form a kind of cubist Google Street View. The bulk of the space is a showcase for "The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven)," a series of large, colorful prints Hockney made using an iPad in 2011.
Two familiar ingredients are central to almost every image: a country lane stretching away, and trees leaning towards the center of the picture, above the road. As the title of the show indicates, though, the small differences in each mark the transition from from winter to spring. Snow melts, leaves arrive, and the empty spaces between the branches disappear. In the iPad drawings especially, there is a warmth and vibrancy to these images that make the old-fashioned, relatively simple subject matter come alive in new and different ways. The Times has called Hockney "one of the greatest colorists since Matisse" and that skill translates to the off-the-shelf iPad color palette too, unsurprisingly. The colors, which manage to be all over the place (pink snow?) while seeming perfectly natural, are especially impressive.
In terms of sheer aesthetic power, many of the prints deliver knockout punches. Again and again, Hockney uses his digital palette to turn these folksy English-countryside pieces into exciting, lively scenes. And although the iPad prints are the headline-grabbers here, don't sleep on the charcoal pieces and the mesmerizing video installation, which is particularly beautiful.
The show closes this Saturday, November 1st, so now is your last chance to see it!
And, if you're looking for more works created with new technologies, you can check out Sugarlift artist Hiba Schahbaz's Digital Pigment Prints, created on an iPad in true Hockney fashion.
WHAT TO DO AFTER /
After the Hockney show, head up to the High Line for a walk a couple stories above the street. There is a staircase entrance on 26th street, just a block north of Pace. The newly opened Rail Yards section of the elevated park, which pushes west towards the Hudson, is just around the corner.
High Line photo credit: Iwan Baan for www.highline.org