Happy Birthday Mr Hockney: Yorkshire Lad/LA Pop Culture Icon
By Helen Cameron
On the 17th of July, the Getty Center in Los Angeles hosted the exhibition opening and reception for Happy Birthday, Mr Hockney. The exhibition, which runs until November 26th, celebrates the David Hockney’s eightieth birthday and his impressive artistic output, which is still very much ongoing. The exhibition of self-portraits and photo-collages is divided between two floors and situated in the West pavilion gallery. It features the well-known Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2 as well as his recent ventures into iPad sketches.
My relationship with the art of David Hockney began on yearly trips down to visit relatives in Yorkshire where it became a tradition to visit Salt's Mill in Bradford, West Yorkshire. The site was a textile mill and is now an art gallery and shop with a really, really good restaurant. Hockney is a local and played a pivotal role in setting up the gallery space. They have a large collection of his work, much of it donated by him. To me his work represented an appreciation for the local landscape, a nod to the industrial history of the Dales area and a love of colour. Rich shades of brown and earthy trees with splashes of pink or purple to represent roads and houses. It wasn't until I was older that I became aware of his influence on the pop art movement. Until I moved there, I was unaware of the fact that Los Angeles is obsessed with Hockney and sees him as their own. Millenial pink, blue hues cast over luxurious homes, swimming pools and palm trees are what locals associate him with there.
I saw The Arrival of Spring at Salt's Mill in 2015. This was an exhibition of drawings done by Hockney on his iPad as well as video installations. The iPad drawings were bold and colourful, mostly of the same view of a lane and trees near his residence. I was impressed at his use of line and space and also at embracing new technology; he turned eighty this year and shows incredible mastery of the iPad. I was delighted to see that the birthday exhibition at the Getty had some of these iPad prints, this time self-portraits rather than landscape scenes.
The current exhibition at the Getty is a testament to the relevance of Hockney’s influence and the personal connection so many Angelenos feel they have with his work. The evening of the reception was a buzz of excitement as people were able to see paintings and photo collages they had only seen previously in books and discuss the works with other die-hard Hockney fans. I personally believe the longevity of his work is due to his background. I believe he has managed to capture the specific magic and sense of wonder in the sun and sky of Southern California because they are viewed through the eyes of someone whose artistic start was in a space of rich greens, rolling hills and rain. In his remarks at the reception, Tim Potts, the director of the Getty Museum, touched on Hockney’s influence back home and comically pointed out the disparate realms he inhabits, of Yorkshire and California. Undoubtedly, the magical, effervescent quality in his art has come to represent a dream, ideal or adventure of Los Angeles for so many individuals and has evolved into a shared cultural heritage of the city.
Some useful links concerning Hockney’s 80th birthday events/celebrations:
Happy Birthday, Mr Hockney at the J. Paul Getty Museum here : http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/hockney_birthday/index.html
Salt’s Mill http://www.saltsmill.org.uk/#
Centre Pompidou https://www.centrepompidou.fr/cpv/resource/cR8ydbn/rKA9jL9