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Hurvin Anderson (B. 1965)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
David Hockney (b. 1937)

Santa Monica

Details
David Hockney (b. 1937)
Santa Monica
signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'DH. Santa Monica 1968' (lower left)
gouache on paper
12¼ x 16 1/8in. (31 x 40.9cm.)
Executed in 1968
Provenance
Private Collection, Brussels.
Galerie Bernard Cats, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006.
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold Co-Head, Post-War & Contemporary Art Europe

Lot Essay

‘I suddenly thought: My God, this place needs its Piranesi; Los Angeles could have a Piranesi, so here I am’
–David Hockney


Created during the artist’s great Los Angeles period, Santa Monica (1968) is a delicate and intelligent watercolour by David Hockney. In front of a palm- fringed horizon and rich blue sky – with raw white paper showing through to conjure a cluster of ragged clouds – stands the perfectly flat face of a building. The wall’s centrally-aligned double window, blinds down, is echoed by a grid-shaped vent above; to the left, a downpipe casts a stark shadow. Developing the themes of the paintings of banks and commercial buildings Hockney had made on his first visit to L.A. four years previously, Santa Monica not only exudes an unmistakable Californian spirit, but also displays the artist’s formalist concerns with illusionistic space, and his wry critical engagement with the modernist abstraction and Minimalism of the 1960s. The building, with its insistent flatness, jostles against the naturalism of the sky and landscape. The window’s horizontal bars of subtle khaki look like the work of Mark Rothko in miniature; the outlet above echoes the grids of Agnes Martin. As Paul Melia and Ulrich Lockhardt have written, ‘In the sixties … Literal identification of colour with the surface of the canvas … together with the concomitant loss of reference to the physical world (the surface of the work was to be its only content), was understood by leading American artists, and critics, to serve as the foundation for the modern practice of painting. Much of Hockney’s work from the mid-sixties reflects his increasingly critical view of this conception … he appropriated those very qualities that he aimed to deprecate … by representing a Modernist building in such a way, parallel to the plane of the canvas, as to create an optical ambiguity between its façade and the surface of the painting. Depicted flatness (the façade) becomes literal flatness (the surface of the picture plane) and then returns to its former state as we become aware of the palm-trees’ (P. Melia and U. Luckhardt, David Hockney, Munich and New York 1994, p. 80). These same ambiguities and tensions reached their apotheosis in his greatest Californian masterpiece, A Bigger Splash (1967), whose flat, bright colour fields, applied using a roller – pool, diving board, sky, house – are gloriously disrupted by the exuberant hand-painted splash at its heart. Exhibiting the same unique fusion of graphic appeal, West Coast cool and complex artistic thought, Santa Monica exemplifies the qualities that characterise Hockney’s most captivating paintings.

Hockney had flown to Los Angeles straight after his first solo show at Kasmin Gallery at the end of 1963, and found a world of luxury, beauty and sensory delight. He met a whole new community of collectors and artists, including the Colour Field painter Kenneth Noland, and other cultural figures such as the author Christopher Isherwood, who would become one of his closest friends. His first Californian paintings were completed in celebratory mood. ‘Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city,’ he remembers, ‘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’ (D. Hockney in N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 97). This freewheeling joy continued to infuse his paintings for the rest of the decade. The nature of the L.A. environment itself conjured an art-historical precedent for the clear colours, sharp organisation and perspectival games that Hockney began to employ in works like Santa Monica. ‘As the climate and the openness of the houses (large glass windows, patios, etc.) reminded me of Italy,’ he says, ‘I borrowed a few notions from Fra Angelico and Piero Della Francesca’ (D. Hockney in N. Stangos (ed.), David Hockney by David Hockney, London 1976, p. 98). The power of Hockney’s Quattrocento exemplars clearly resounds in the lucid, poised composition of the present work, even as he plays with the painterly debates of the 1960s; a meditation on place, on painting and on art history, Santa Monica’s deceptively simple composition is laced with fierce pictorial intelligence.

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