Front Row at the Movies
Picture of Artist’s Life
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
David Hockney is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. He was an important contributor to the Pop Art movement of the ‘60s. And he matured as a painter when he came to Los Angeles, where he has lived off and on for more than 30 years.
Openly gay, even when it was illegal in England, Hockney sometimes explored homoerotic themes in his portraits. Paintings like his “We Two Boys Together Clinging,” “Domestic Scene, Los Angeles,” and “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool” are typical examples.
He often used models repeatedly for his portraitures: His parents, various artists and writers, fashion designers, and his one-time lover.
Inspired by California, Hockney painted a series of swimming pools in a highly realistic style using vibrant acrylic colors.
David Hockney was offered a knighthood in 1990, but turned it down, finally accepting an Order of Merit in 2012. His honors are numerous, ranging from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Arts Association, and the Archives of American Art to The Royal Photographic Society. He received the Lorenzo de' Medici Lifetime Career Award in 2003.
A 2011 poll of 1,000 British painters and sculptors declared him Britain’s Most Influential Artist of All Time.
Hockney is no stranger to documentaries.
In 1966, he starred in a documentary by filmmaker James Scott titled “Love’s Presentation.” In 1974 he was the subject of Jack Hazan’s “A Bigger Splash,” a reference to his swimming pool paintings. He was also featured in Billy Pappas’s 2008 documentary “Waiting for Hockney.”
Now filmmaker Randall Wright has focused on David Hockney in a new documentary simply titled “Hockney.” It is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, Hockney takes Wright on an exclusive tour of his archives, sharing previously unseen footage and images, looking back on his life with fresh insight.
The key to Hockney’s work seems to be found in the relationships he’s had throughout his life. These include the young lover he lived with for many years, the older American critic who helped him get established in the States, and his family (particularly his mother).
As expected, the film looks back on Hockney’s formative years as a darling in the British Pop Art scene, his experience of being a gay man as the Aids crisis took hold, and his work in California.
The interviews with friends and associates are insightful, but Hockey still manages to be evasive. His wiser present self is careful in explaining his flashier younger self. Nonetheless, we meet a man content with his life.
He still paints every day.