Move to L.A.
Never before having visited, Hockney moves to California, setting up his home and studio in Santa Monica. He is charmed by the denizens of Los Angeles, where he meets [NESTED]the writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner artist Don Bachardy, actor Jack Larson, screenwriter and director Jim Bridges, art dealer Nicholas Wilder, and master printer Ken Tyler.
I had read John Rechy’s City of Night … it was one of the first novels covering that kind of sleazy sexy hot night-life in Pershing Square. I looked on the map and saw that Wilshire Boulevard, which begins by the sea in Santa Monica, goes all the way to Pershing Square; all you have to do is stay on the boulevard. But of course, it’s about 18 miles, which I didn’t realize. I started cycling. I got to Pershing Square and it was deserted; about nine in the evening, just got dark, not a soul there …. I had a glass of beer and thought, it’s going to take me an hour or more to get back; so I just cycled back and I thought, this just won’t do, this bicycle is useless. I shall have to get a car tomorrow.
Within a week of arriving … in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I’d passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting all in a week. And I thought: it’s just how I imagined it would be.
Landscapes and swimming pools
Hockney takes up Polaroid photography for the first time, among myriad new experiences. The first painting he makes, Plastic Tree Plus City Hall, is done in acrylic—another change of habit. The strange environment, not to mention the unfamiliar way of life, invigorates his painting practice: he makes his first swimming pool paintings, as well as stylistically bold renderings of the Southern Californian landscape.
The picture, California Art Collector, is a complete invention. The only specific thing is the swimming pool, painted from an advertisement for swimming pools in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times …. As the climate and the openness of the houses reminded me of Italy, I borrowed a few notions from Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca.
For the summer, Hockney teaches at the University of Iowa, then returns to L.A. after a road trip with Ossie Clark and Derek Boshier through the American West with a stop at the Grand Canyon. His first solo show in the U.S. opens in late September in New York at the Alan Gallery, and sells out. In the New York Times, Stuart Preston’s review speaks for the American audience’s enthralled, even rather shocked, reception of Hockney’s series of lithographs A Rake’s Progress, on view at the Museum of Modern Art: “Like Picasso (although unlike him in every other respect), Hockney is primarily not a painter but an image maker, both fun and funny in his deadpan, zanily satirical interpretations of modern life. Paint (or lithography) is just a way of putting his comments across. For they are intensely literary, meant to be ‘read’ like little stories, and very good ones they are. Hockney gets sizzling results in his new version of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress, a series of prints which wickedly recount his misadventures in the USA, [NESTED]situations that only savage innocence and a wild sense of humor could lead to. This may not be ART but it’s artful and cunning. And solemnity is OUT.”
- Six Young Painters: Peter Blake, William Crozier, David Hockney, Dorothy Mead, Bridget Riley, Euan Uglow, Blackburn Art Gallery, Blackburn, UK (Jan 1964), touring exhibition organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain; travels to Newcastle; Kingston-upon-Hull; Eastbourne; Cambridge; Sheffield.
- The New Generation, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (Mar–May 1964); catalogue.
- Contemporary Painters and Sculptors as Printmakers, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA (Sep 15–Oct 24); catalogue.
- I. Internationale der Zeichnung, Der Stadt Darmstadt, Darmstadt, West Germany.
- The New Generation: 1964, Whitechapel Gallery, London: Whitechapel Gallery and Peter Stuyvesant Foundation.