20 Flowers and Some Bigger Pictures
January 13–February 25, 2023
When you consider the COVID-19 pandemic, what comes to mind? While most would associate quarantine with a range of public health topics, few—until recently—would cite the celebrated pictorial painter David Hockney (b. 1937). Known for his vibrant palette and depictions of Los Angeles in the 1960s and ’70s, Hockney has evolved in the new millennium. 20 Flowers and Some Bigger Pictures, on view at Pace Gallery from January 13 through February 25, 2023, only reinforces this. The artist’s solo exhibition—his tenth with Pace since 2009—features a series of iPad paintings Hockney crafted during lockdown at his studio and in his nearby seventeenth-century Normandy home. The show is the final iteration of an international exhibition co-presented by Galerie Lelong & Co. in Paris, GRAY in Chicago, L.A. Louver in Los Angeles, and Annely Juda Fine Art in London. Viewers spanning Europe and the United States will feel as though they sit next to the artist, surrounded by rich floral illustrations and lovely checked tablecloths, face-to-face with ceramic vases and outdoor verdure.
Hockney began working on the twenty-eight-work series in February 2021, roughly a year into the pandemic. Seated at a table in Normandy, the artist observed several flowers in a nearby vase. The wintry sun sat low in the sky, and Hockney felt compelled to draw the stark shadow slicing the table on his iPad. He printed the work, posted it on the far wall facing the table, and admired it from his chair. When, a few days later, the light hit the same ceramic vase, Hockney realized he could document the passage of time with different iterations of the painted glass and flowers.
And so, he did. Initially reproduced by the German newspaper Die Welt and shown at the Musée Matisse in Nice, the works are contemplative; they evoke rebirth, using a new tablecloth or flower species, or in some cases, an entirely different type of vase. The setting remains mostly the same, and yet the viewer witnesses those small shifts we experience yet may not remark in daily life: contrasting textures, wavering tones, evolving perspectives and lines and light. In each work, the artist examines the reflective aspects of the pandemic: unique depictions of home, the French countryside, and seasonal changes—no matter that parts of the world were at a standstill at the time.
The exhibition features editioned, signed inkjet prints sourced directly from the artist’s iPad: five landscapes, twenty still-lifes offering captivating takes on the abovementioned vase composition, and a composite of three separate iPad paintings starring a bouquet of gladioli. The works offer the same stillness early Hockney paintings are known for, yet the landscapes in 20 Flowers and Some Bigger Pictures illustrate the vast surroundings in which the artist occupied himself mid-pandemic. The iPad reinforces Hockney’s hand and technical prowess, allowing the artist to craft large-scale compositions the same way he would on canvas. Water Lilies in the Pond with Pots of Flowers (2021) depicts six iPad paintings that make up this single work, printed on two sheets of paper and mounted on Dibond. Lush greens and thick gray clouds set the outdoor scene, while water lilies and potted florals add depth to the quiet. In the distance, a farmhouse is nestled behind the trees; painted in June 2021, the work is largely meditative. Splashes of warm colors—hints of red and yellow—add contrast to the otherwise cool palette. Rain on the Pond (2021) offers a different perspective of the same scene; drawn in July and August 2021, the work is composed of eight iPad paintings printed on paper, also mounted on Dibond. A cascade of rain strikes the pond, amplifying the green vegetation to a near-hyperbolic extent. Hockney is well-attuned to the changes taking place in his quiet surroundings, and he depicts them with discernment.
August 2021, Landscape with Shadows (2021) boasts the most colorful palette of the series. Twelve iPad paintings comprise the work, while potted plants and a multi-hued hillside elevate the effects of light and shadow on the colors, we observe each day. The color selection here, reminiscent of the artist’s LA works from decades prior, features deep reds and blues, oranges and yellows and greens; the ink-jet printing creates a geometric, and the mismatched images cut up the planes of the picture, seem to flatten the landscape, in keeping with the artists Hockney is referencing in the series—Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse—a panorama breaching the natural bounds of space and time. Each scene is familiar yet different from the last, as Hockney documents indoor and outdoor spaces with nostalgia and introspection.