The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” on view at the de Young Museum from Oct. 26 through Jan. 20.
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Assembled by Hockney exclusively for the de Young, this exhibition marks the return to California of the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation. More than 300 works will be shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition in the history of the museum.
This first comprehensive survey of Hockney’s work since 2002 covers one of the most prolific periods of the artist’s career.
Hockney’s book, “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters” was published in 2001, revealing his discovery that artists had used optical devices in their working processes centuries earlier than had been previously thought. The next decade saw an explosion of activity for Hockney, including a period of two years when he worked intensively and exclusively in watercolor for the first time, followed by painting en plein air, experimentation with the iPhone, iPad drawings, oil paintings on a grand scale and digital movies.
“David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” builds on the success of a recent exhibition organized by the Royal Academy of Arts in London but encompasses a much larger scope, and includes many portraits, still lifes and landscapes.
In addition to watercolors, charcoals, oil paintings and works in other media, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will also be the first to exhibit and publish “The Arrival of Spring in 2013 (twenty thirteen).” This work consists of 25 charcoal drawings, finished in May and has been described by Hockney as capturing “the bleakness of the winter and its exciting transformation to the summer.”
“David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” includes some of Hockney’s grandest works both in terms of size and concept, such as “The Bigger Message,” his 30-canvas re-working of Claude Lorrain’s “The Sermon on the Mount.”
Also included are more intimate works, like the artist’s portraits depicting friends, colleagues and family members. These reveal the artist’s personal and intimate relationships and illustrate a particularly tender understanding of his sitters. Hockney’s most recent portraits — done in charcoal — will be exhibited and published for the first time by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
This exhibition highlights Hockney’s ability to engage with — and gain mastery of — a wide variety of tools and media.
Works range from simple pencil drawings on paper, to “Bigger Yosemite,” five drawings created on the iPad that capture the majesty of the American West.
“Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire,” noted Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and organizer of the exhibition.
Also worthy of special mention are the exhibition’s “Cubist movies.” These are made using as many as 18 separate digital cameras, mounted on a grid and recording the action simultaneously, resulting in a movie with as many as 18 perspectives. In making them, Hockney has addressed a challenge first taken up by Picasso: How to display multiple perspectives in one work of art.
Over a career lasting more than 60 years, Hockney has consistently displayed a passion, as Lawrence Wechsler writes in his essay for the exhibition catalog, “to look deeper and see more.”
“David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” displays the artist’s constantly searching curiosity, his desire to always move forward and his unique genius for seeing.
“The de Young is thrilled to bring this major exhibition of David Hockney’s work to a U.S. museum,” said Benefield. “It’s clear from the pace at which Hockney continues to produce such important work — and the fearless nature of his innovation — that he has conceded nothing to his 76 years.”
The exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the artist. The exhibition is curated and designed by Gregory Evans. Director’s Circle: David Davies and Jack Weeden, Bequest of Dr. Charles L. Dibble, The Michael Taylor Trust and Diane B. Wilsey. Curator’s Circle: Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue, and Ray and Dagmar Dolby. Patron’s Circle: Hope Shuttleworth Herndon. Media Sponsor: San Francisco Magazine.
The de Young Museum is in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in San Francisco.