British-born artist David Hockney has lived in L.A. since the 1970s. His luxuriant drawings of California, with their Mediterranean-like idyll of blue skies, palm trees and swimming pools, speak of alienation and spiritual emptiness. In this catalogue of a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hockney's diverse crayon, charcoal-and-ink drawings and watercolors include ruthlessly honest self-portraits, serene still lifes, nudes, street scenes, penetrating portraits and startlingly original vistas based on his travels in Egypt, Morocco, Paris and Hollywood. Also included are experimental works such as computer drawings, fax-machine images and Polaroid collages that combine photography with pencil sketches. In their accompanying essay to a rich, constantly new body of work, Luckhardt, a curator at the Hamburger Lunsthalle, and Melia, a British art historian, explore how drawing informs Hockney's approach to every medium, including painting and stage-set design. (Apr.)
No living artist is better known than David Hockney. His paintings of well-heeled people (his friends and collectors) in large, sparely furnished rooms filled with pastel light and of swimming pools outside those rooms are icons of Southern California that have influenced everything from display advertising to MTV. He is the best stage designer for opera in ages, and his male nudes are admired by more than just his fellow gay men. This survey's 165 drawings, dating from Hockney's British art school days to 1994, collectively show one reason for his long-lived success: he samples from throughout the history of art, stylistically (recently, from synthetic cubism) and technically (e.g., using van Gogh's tool, the reed pen, to draw as he did); this borrowing makes Hockney's work rich in cultural suggestion yet never overpowers his own artistic personality. The essays by Luckhardt and Melia help with appreciating Hockney's uses of older art but don't bog down in technical talk. A most rewarding art book, though some early colorplates are inexplicably out of numerical order.