David Hockney: A Biography, 1975-2012

by Michael Cox

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 14, 2014

David Hockney: A Biography, 1975-2012

Though David Hockney ascended into the art world in the swinging London of the 1960s, it was still a time in Great Brittan when it was criminal to be gay. Nevertheless, "David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012" asserts that "he discovered his sexuality, coming out unashamedly... [and] his work blossomed."

One of the most influential and certainly most popular visual artists of the Twentieth Century, Hockney is best remembered for his sun-filled and geometric swimming pools; the odd posture, hot pink dress and dead expression on his "Beverly Hills Housewife" (which sold for almost $8 million); his Cubist inspired photo collages; and the hard, yet ever-flowing lines on his portraits (where the large legs of slightly reclining men lead the eye up to their seemingly tiny faces).

This volume picks up where "David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975" abruptly left off, and it's author, Christopher Simon Sykes, accesses countless letters, diaries, notebooks and interviews with family, friends and Hockney himself.

Hockney had an impressive array of acquaintances, from Christopher Isherwood and Andy Warhol to Aldous Huxley and Lauren Bacall. Not only was he talented, but also his amiable personality helped him to keep well connected.

"Any Hollywood hostess is honored to have him at her party," said Billy Wilder of him, "they fight for him... If you have one friend and it is Hockney, you are not lost in this world." Though Dennis Hopper had a less positive reaction when the artist's dog defecated on the actor's rug, leading Hockney to suggest they simply let it dry and pick it up in the morning.

This book doesn't probe, expose or analyze Hockney or his art, but it's very informative, objective and quite pleasant to read -- similar to much of the artist's work.

Early in the book Hockney begins to realize that traditional ideas of perspective are holding him back, and he goes on to discover: "Perspective takes away the body of the viewer. You have a fixed point; you have no movement; in short, you are not there really. That is the problem..."

"When he felt things becoming labored," says Sykes, "he switched mediums..." He made pop art depicting gay love 10 years before it was legal in Great Brittan, he worked in acrylics when it was a relatively new medium, he did an entire show of completely faxed artwork, and he's now ventured into the moving medium of iPad art.

This book doesn't probe, expose or analyze Hockney or his art, but it's very informative, objective and quite pleasant to read -- similar to much of the artist's work. The book ends after the 2012 show "David Hockney: A Bigger Picture," when he is 75. It took 5 years of hard work to put the show together, and the venture received only mixed reviews. To this, Hockey sent out a whimsical iPad drawing lambasting the critics.

"It's not an end," says Hockney, "it's another beginning. I'm only finishing my middle period."

"David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012"

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