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David Hockney's Photography
One of the most revolutionary developments in photography this century had been the work of businessman/inventor, Charles Land. Perhaps you've heard of his camera, the Land Camera? The Polaroid Land Camera? There, I knew you'd heard of him. As photographers go, they either love it or hate it, and that's pretty much the case with artists as well. A few of us have used it from time to time for quick colour images, or to create compositions when time was of the essence. On certain occasions, it can be a helpful tool. A few artists, one in particular, have embraced it as an art/photography medium and have demonstrated its considerable potential.

That artist is David Hockney. Born in England in 1937, Hockney originally came to notice for his use of hundreds of Polaroid shots of a single scene, collaged together like little snippets of memory to create an overall mural of sizable proportions. His photomontage entitled Pearblossom Highway 11-18th April 1986, for instance, is some 78" tall and 111" long. The effect is that of a glimmering mosaic featuring a desolate desert highway where cactus compete with road signs in decorating the landscape. More recently, he has dabbled in everything from acrylic painting to set designs for such productions as Die Frau Ohne Schatten for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1992. Still more recently, he created a nine-minute stage set performance piece called A Snail's Pace, in which coloured lights were the actors.

His most recent endeavor is so new it arrived from England for an exhibit at the National Museum of American Art in Washington with the paint still wet. Some twenty-four feet long in what is termed an "almost realistic" style, it is entitled, A Bigger Grand Canyon. The work is a sequel to the twenty-two-foot-long, computer-driven, abstract work he presented last year. Somewhat like his Polaroid montages, this work is comprised of sixty separate canvases, mounted into a single grid, 24 feet long and 7 feet tall. The painting had its genesis back in 1982 when Hockney photographed the Grand Canyon using his off-the-shelf Polaroid camera to create a preliminary work from which he has painted. The work took three months to complete with Hockney painting at times on individual canvases and at other times on the work as a whole. The Exhibit will be on view in Washington through September 7, whereupon it will travel to the L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, California.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
19 June 1998


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