David Hockney, Yosemite I, 2011
Image source: de Young Museum
The de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA, recently hosted a David Hockney retrospective titled, “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition.” The expansive show featured work from the past decade and a half, including the artist’s famed iPad art.
Hockney works in both conventional and emerging media covering a wide range of subject matter. His iPad drawings, specifically those housed in “light boxes,” were the stars of the show. The landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits were wonderfully rendered in their own right — playful color combinations, extraordinary textures and patterns, rhythmic lines — but the technology behind them added a new dimension to the consumption of art.
Thanks to the “record and replay” feature on Brushes, Hockney’s preferred app, the viewer could watch each drawing come to life stroke by stroke. In one of the most popular galleries, there were six (or so) large “light boxes” affixed to the wall; the face of the box served as the surface for the works. Each displayed approximately 8-20 drawings that were continuously shown in replay mode — one drawing at a time. It was fun — and instructive — to watch Hockney build forms, create textures and patterns with different “brushes” right before your eyes. This manner of presentation made for an intimate experience between artist and viewer. On a few occasions, I looked around sensing that the 76-year old artist was in the room.
Hockney has talked about the ease and practicality of carrying an iPad “sketchpad” in his coat pocket, and of being able to wake up and draw a sunrise without having to mix colors first. The emergence of the iPad as a legitimate art form calls to mind a significant development in mid-19th century Europe. In 1841, the paint tube was invented. It allowed artists mobility, among other things, and fostered new ways of seeing, new subjects to look at, and new concepts about art itself. The French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, “Without tubes of paint, there would have been no impressionism.” Will the iPad be the paint tubes of the 21st century?
Disclosure: The exhibition ticket was independently purchased by the author.