David Hockney has always been an iconoclast in the art world. He’s not as ubiquitous as contemporaries (and fellow gay artists) Andy Warhol or Keith Haring, but anyone who has been paying attention to contemporary art over the last four decades has seen his work. Now the rest of the world gets a peek into the artist with a new PBS documentary debuting tonight at 9 p.m. EST.
There is a curious presumption at the nucleus of Randall Wright’s film, made under the auspices of the BBC – and that’s the slow realization that this Hockney doc is somewhat lacking in the presence of the artist himself. Instead of the filmmakers setting up the story with biographical info that places the artist in a historical context, it’s left to his work to speak for him. At times that’s fascinating, but it’s also just as often frustrating.
It does become clear early on that Hockney, like many Brits of his generation, fell in love with post-World War II America and had to experience the land of his dreams up close. Where better to find artistic inspiration than in the sun-drenched, image obsessed Los Angeles sprawl of the ’60s and ’70s? During that time (and due in no small part to the appearance of his muse and lover, Peter Schlesinger, pictured above), Hockney created some of his most memorable work.
So if Wright’s work isn’t everything one might hope, it is a couple of things: one of them being a wonderful little box of curios, including Hockney home movies, and a profoundly sorrowful depiction of the wide swath AIDS cut through Hockney’s friend group. There are moments of tenderness and some that will tickle or tantalize. Is it worth the watch? Absolutely. But the definitive document of Hockney’s work is still out there waiting to be made.
For more info: http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/hockney/0/3437511
Last modified: August 22, 2017