david hockney: art and mortality

Weschler-1Lawrence Weschler at the Virginia Quarterly Review:

Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that Hockney fancies himself Moses-​like, the founding prophet of some new-​age religion. But the thing that stands out in that Sagan passage, looking back on it now, is the precision of its characterization of the challenge—​the need to break free from impinging orthodoxies, to reach for bigger and grander ways of being in the world; the way in which, as Hockney himself soon started insisting with ever greater urgency, wider vantages are called for now.

As it happens, Sagan died just a few years after penning those lines, and what might have initially read, in Hockney’s rendition, as a rousing monolithic assertion came, with the passage of time, to seem more like a tolling memorial headstone. Likewise, I’ve recently come to feel, with the whole sweep of Hockney’s production across the latter half of his career, starting in the early eighties with those Polaroid collages. Elsewhere I’ve attempted to evoke the dead end before which David had seemed to arrive toward the end of the seventies: how two Golden Boy decades in which he had seemed incapable of doing any wrong had culminated in that series of extraordinarily successful double portraits—​from Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott in 1969, and Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark with their cat in 1971, and Peter Schlesinger gazing down on that swimmer poolside in that 1972 hillscape, on through the remarkable portrait of his parents from 1977 (his mother to one side, peering intently out at him, his father hunched off to the other, seemingly lost in the perusal of an art book spread across his lap).

more here.