Wednesday, June 13, 2007

David Hockney and Picasso

Bookstores are, for me, sirens with temptatons and I go in knowing I'm probably going to find something irrestistable. I'm never sorry about the money I spend on books except in the (not too frequent) times when I purchase a book only to discover when I get home that I already have it.

A couple days ago I stopped at Barnes and Noble as I walked part way home, to get Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart to send to somebody in one of those periods of life. It is a wonderful little book, not sentimental schmaltz, no buck up and stiff upper lip, just good practical advice from a woman writing from the deeply felt knowledge that the world is a solid place and one must not look for easy answers but face the pains and difficulty, fears and worries head on. So I got Pema's book and browsed a bit and what did I find?

On the bargain racks, yet. A book I saw the last time I was at the Metropolitan Museum's bookstore, but now redueed from $45 to $15: Hockney's Pictures, the Definitive Retrospective. I've always been drawn to Hockney's deceptively simple, light, bright colors and graphic paintings and his more technical photo montages. He seems to know how to look at things and paint them without attempting to convince us of his genius or skill -- but things that look straightfoward are usually more complex. So I scanned here a drawing, an early work, where Hockney's naked self is facing a clothed and stereotypical Picasso. One can look a long time thinking about the young painter, the already famous master, the vulnerability of self-containment of Hockney and Picasso simply himself, not engaged with anything except art. How is an aspiring artist to meet such a figure except naked on the other side of the table? How are any of us to meet our aspirations? Only by being simply who we are ... if the other is blind to us, okay, we are not blind to him. By making the encounter a work of art, Hockney has asserted himself and incorporated Picasso into his life. This is this the kind of drawing I would like to have as a postcard to tack to the kitchen cabinet or on the refrigerator so the encounter becomes a part of my life.

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