This weekend marks the conclusion of the magnificent David Hockney retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum, and also the journey of that show, both geographically and conceptually, through markedly distinct iterations in its originating venue, Tate Britain, and the Pompidou Center. But while its various outings placed greater or lesser emphasis on photography, drawing, multimedia works, stage works, portraiture, Etc., the overall characterization of Hockney as a tireless explorer was consistent. Less space was made available to the show in New York than in London or Paris, but that made no dent in the power of this presentation: it was, indeed, a small price to pay (for him and for us) for the honor of his sharing a roof with Rodin and Michelangelo, and by extension, Munch. In fact, the pleasure of seeing his stunning double portraits hang almost cheek by jowl in an almost domestic-feeling gallery accentuated appreciation of a series that occupied the intellectual heart of the Met exhibition. These and the legendary swimming pools and the sumptuous late explorations of Hollywood and Yorkshire landscapes were stepping stones on a journey through a multifaceted oeuvre that flowed more effortlessly, it might be argued, than Hockney’s peripatetic career itself. And yet it is telling to the notion of journey that the most memorable and (in my experience) remarked upon moments in this show were at its outset and conclusion: The charismatic exuberance of his “primitive,” graffiti-like student works (so much larger than one had ever imagined from reproductions) and the mesmerizing animated iPad paintings that ensured a crowded and lingering exit. Equally daring, in their varyingly experimental, critical, personal ways, these works revel in curiosity about living in the world and seeing it.
David Hockney, Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 27, 2018 to February 25, 2018print