When I think of the work David Hockney, images of crisp swimming pools, intensely saturated landscapes, and mesmerizing portraits of friends come to mind. All of these facets of the artist's oeuvre, of course, are present at "David Hockney" currently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. What took me by surprise, however, were Hockney's early works which reveled in Queerdom and unabashed sexuality.
The painting above was executed when Hockney was twenty-five years old in 1962 (Homosexuality was not decriminalized in Britain until 1967). The law did not keep Hockney from incorporating chains, vaseline, and tubes of ejaculating toothpaste in the painting. Much more raw than the later work, both in form and content, this painting was one of the standouts to me as it revealed a gestural drawing style that I didn't associate with Hockney.
A year later, the fluoride-swallowing, sadomasochistic monsters transform into sun-kissed, toned white boys in the shower replete with a red rotary phone (!!!). By this time the artist had relocated to sunny Los Angeles, a place that he had fantasized about.
"American's take showers all the time" remarked Hockney in the mid-70's. Undoubtedly the allure of wet bodies was too much for Hockney to ignore as half nude bodies in swimming pools would figure prominently in the artists work.
Also interesting was Hockney's interaction with the student body at UCLA where he taught a drawing class in the 60's. The model above was a young art student with whom Hockney became inseparable. In today's climate of nauseating political correctness and the ongoing witch hunt of sexual offenders, I cannot see a painting like the one above leaving the artist unscathed and unindicted. Yea for the 60's / Nay for the 60's — What do you think?
By the time we get to the inner galleries of the exhibition, spontaneous bottoms and exhibitionist bathers are replaced by clothed intellectuals in interior spaces. One senses a more refined approach to the work. The spaces are less flat and shapes are depicted in space in a very realistic way. Underneath the tight surface of the paintings, however, you still are welcomed into Hockey's world of queer life and freedom in homosexuality.
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