Julian Bell at the NYRB:
The sweet-tempered and hugely popular productions of Hockney’s later twenties and thirties, epitomized by that 1971 London interior with the cat and the carpet, tilt back toward descriptive decorum. In the later galleries of the retrospective, the mood continues to oscillate. Between the ages of sixty-eight and seventy-six Hockney devoted much of his energy to rural scenes from his native Yorkshire. On the one hand, the venture led to pounding melodramas such as the sixteen-foot-wide May Blossom on the Roman Road (2009), with its gigantiform shrubs and super-vibrant hues, a Carl Orff orchestration of a placid English backwater. On the other, a 2013 sequence of drawings of lanes through a woodland are virtuoso solos of steady, quiet lyricism—charcoal’s whole gamut of streaking, stippling, and stumping attuned to the interplay of ground, foliage, and sunlight.
There is an inspiring buoyancy to Hockney’s act. Here is an artist who reckons he can get marks to perform however he pleases. His force of attention seldom slackens, and there will always be more to do. Picturing is his element, stretching in all directions. Each picture, in his own words, is “an account of looking at something,” but each has “a limit to what it can see” and thus tantalizes with the prospect of further viewpoints. Hockney might here be talking about the works of which this retrospective is composed, but he might equally be talking about the units of which they themselves are composed, the variegated patches of attentiveness.