David Hockney (b. July 9, 1937)

Legendary pop artist and marijuana lover David Hockney is partly responsible for my leaving my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for California. I saw him give a lecture in Pittsburgh one night in the early 1980s and thought afterwards, if he likes living in California, I think I would too.

In charmingly humble fashion, Hockney told an amusing anecdote about his breakthrough photocollage technique, a sort of photographic cubism he invented. You see, he explained, when we look at something we don't frame it as a professional photographer does, but rather look at that face, those eyes, that flower...moving our eyes across the scene and assembling it in our minds' eyes into a whole. He started taking pictures in just that way, leading to his Brooklyn Bridge photocollage gracing the cover of the New York Times magazine, or his fantastic California-based Pearblossom Highway (shown). But before he was known for the form he invented, the artist--who already had paintings in all the major art museums of the world--sent his photos to a drug store developing lab for processing. "And they'd send them back with little stickers on them telling me the proper way to frame a photograph," he said (in paraphrase).

When I got to LA, the first ad agency I went into on my quest for gainful employment had a Hockney photocollage hanging in its lobby. I nearly forgot to hand the receptionist my resume in my excitement. There's nothing like his photocollages, which put you in the scene, such as scrabble game, adding the element of time to a two-dimensional form much in the way Picasso (another VIP) and the other cubists did.

Born in 1937, the year marijuana was effectively legalized in the US, the British-born Hockney took the occasion of his exhibit at London's Royal Academy of Arts in the summer of 1999 to call for the legalization of marijuana. "I remember Jack Straw [UK's home minister] in 1968 saying 'you can't legalise marijuana as we haven't got enough information'. Thirty years later, he's said exactly the same thing. I don't know what life has taught him, I've learnt quite a lot. I've smoked a lot of marijuana. It hasn't harmed me."

Hockney said he smoked a regular "joint" with a glass of whisky in the evening. But, he hastened to add, he had never indulged in stimulants when working because "drugs and art don't mix…You have to be very clear-headed." Drugs made you "too pleased with everything," he said, and to create great work "you have to struggle." (Source: Dalya Alberge, HOCKNEY SAYS DRUGS ARE FINE BUT NOT FOR ART, The Times (UK), May 27, 1999.)

Results of Hockney's struggle for art will soon be seen in San Francisco at an exhibition at the DeYoung museum in Golden Gate Park. The exhibition will include multi-canvas oil paintings, films shot with nine cameras and shown on nine screens and others shot with 18 cameras and shown on 18 screens, and the iPad drawings that have been a prominent part of Hockney’s recent practice. Including selections from the wildly successful exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the upcoming exhibition at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the highly anticipated de Young show will be on display in San Francisco October 26, 2013 to January 2014.

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