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Arts and Entertainment

Seven Ways Of Looking At David Hockney

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Despite his British roots, few artists are more deeply associated with Los Angeles than David Hockney. From his sun-drenched "Swimming Pool" paintings to his panoramic reimagining of Mulholland Drive, Hockney has helped shape the way we see the city since he first decamped to Los Angeles a half century ago.

Seeking out sun, sex, space and "L.A. as his idealised version of America," Hockney bleached his dark brown hair blond when he first arrived in Los Angeles in 1964, according to FT.

"I came to Los Angeles for two reasons," Hockney told an interviewer in 2009. "The first was a photo by Julius Shulman of Case Study House #21, and the other was AMG’s Physique Pictorial [AMG was, at the time, the premier producer of homoerotic nude photography]."

“Arrived in the promised land 2 days ago,” a 26-year-old Hockney scrawled on the back of a postcard mailed to a friend in Britain in January 1964. “The world’s most beautiful city is here - LA… You must come.”

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Hockney found his adopted hometown infinitely thrilling. ("It suits me here. You can live more privately here than anywhere else and yet still be in a city," he once told Lawrence Weschler; ""Los Angeles is the only place in the world where the buildings actually make you smile when you drive around," he told another interviewer). To him, the glistening city was also a blank slate of sorts, ripe to be shaped through his eyes.

“There were no paintings of Los Angeles,” he told the BBC's Melvyn Bragg in 1975, as quoted in David Hockney: The Biography. “People then didn’t even know what it looked like. And when I was there they were still finishing some of the big freeways. I remember seeing, within the first week, a ramp of a freeway going up into the air, and at first it looked like a ruin and I suddenly thought, ‘My God, this place needs its Piranesi; Los Angeles could have a Piranesi, so here I am!’”

And there he was. On July 9, Los Angeles' great visual chronicler turned 80, and in honor of Hockney's birthday the J. Paul Getty Museum is presenting Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney, a two-part exhibition that features Hockney’s rarely seen self-portraits. Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney also includes Polaroid composites and photo collages, including the Getty Museum’s masterpiece Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2, which was last shown in 2008.

The Getty has shared a preview of images from the exhibit (see above!) with LAist that offer a snapshot of Hockney's self portraits, which were never intended for commercial sale, as they evolved through the years.

“Hockney’s self-portraits in many ways reflect his career, exploring interests ranging from his flamboyant fashion sense to his own changing features and the consequences of aging, but always laced with wit and deep sensitivity,” Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, said in a statement. “They were never intended for commercial sale, and have instead remained with the artist. We are privileged to be exhibiting these rarely seen, intimate works.”

"Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney: Self-portraits" will be on display at the Getty Museum from June 27 to November 26, 2017. "Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney: Photographs" will be on display from July 18 to November 26, 2017. The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300

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