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David Hockney (b. 1937)
Property from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson
David Hockney (b. 1937)

A Visit with Mo and Lisa, Echo Park

Details
David Hockney (b. 1937)
A Visit with Mo and Lisa, Echo Park
signed with the artist's initials and dated 'D.H. 84' (lower right of the right sheet)
diptych--gouache, wax crayon and graphite on paper
left sheet: 60 ¾ x 102 ½ in. (154.3 x 260.3 cm.)
right sheet: 60 ¾ x 99 ½ in. (154.3 x 252.7 cm.)
overall: 60 ¾ x 202 in. (154.3 x 513 cm.)
Executed in 1984.
Provenance
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1985
Literature
R. Martin, "The Echoes in Echo Park; Styles and History in David Hockney's New Work," Arts, October 1984, pp. 74-77 (illustrated on the cover).
C. S. Sykes, David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012, A Pilgrim's Progress, London, 2014, pp. 206-207.
Exhibited
New York, André Emmerich Gallery, David Hockney: New Work, October-November 1984 (illustrated on the front and back covers).
Berkeley, University Art Museum, MATRIX/Berkeley, David Hockney, February-March 1986.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and London, Tate Gallery, David Hockney: A Retrospective, February 1988-January 1989, pp. 92-94, fig. 11 (illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, October 2000-January 2001, pp. 116, 235 and 368, no. 122, pl. 143 (illustrated).
Skärhamn, Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Pacific Light: A Survey of California Watercolor 1908-2008, May-September 2008, pp. 82-83 and 170 (illustrated).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

David Hockney’s A Visit with Mo and Lisa, Echo Park is an expansive work depicting the colorful Californian home of two of the artist's friends that combines many of the important themes in Hockney’s work – landscapes, domestic interiors, and portraiture. Working on such a monumental scale offered the artist a chance to develop radical techniques to push the traditional boundaries of painting. One of the most inquiring and innovative artists of his generation, Hockney spent much of his career investigating new visual languages and exploring novel methods of conveying meaning. A striking color palette and emphasis on repeating patterns testify to Hockney’s interest in French twentieth-century masters, while the work’s 17-foot scale was influenced in part by traditional Chinese scrolls and their particular way of communicating space without the use of perspective. Hockney believed that painting without the constraints of single-point perspective allowed viewers to immerse themselves in the composition, discovering the intricate delights that caught and intrigued the artist’s eye. Painted in 1984, the present work was conceived during a period of prolific production and immediately before what is widely considered to be one of the artist’s major paintings of the period, A Visit with Christopher and Don, Santa Monica Canyon, 1984 (C. S. Sykes, Hockney: The Biography 1975-2012, 2014). It is with paintings such as these that Hockney’s love for painting and commitment to color can be most strongly felt.

Regulars in Hockney’s California-based circle of friends, husband and wife Mo McDermott and Lisa Lombardi shared Hockney’s visions of imaginary reality. Hockney’s own West Coast home boasted pieces from Mo and Lisa’s joint artistic production, including hand-painted wooden creatures and whimsical light fixtures. Known for their fanciful sculptures, it seems only fitting that Hockney’s portrayal of Mo and Lisa’s living room and patio incorporates a similar amount of suspended belief. This work offers a panoramic view of Mo and Lisa’s Echo Park, Los Angeles abode and leads the viewer on a winding journey through both the interior and exterior of the property, which looks out on the cityscape beyond. Reading from left to right, the eye moves from what appears to be a lush enclosed garden, enters a vibrantly decorated interior, and moves back outside again into a suburban garden with the downtown skyscrapers and telltale palm trees of Los Angeles in the distance. As if we were perambulating the space ourselves, we walk along a series of grey stone steps in the garden before traipsing through the rest of the house and back outside again. The presentation of the piece makes it clear that we too have been invited for a visit at Mo and Lisa’s Echo Park home.

Throughout the composition, flat planes of color are adorned with painterly gestures that transform them into architectural surfaces—tiled roofs, painted walls and floors. Nestled against these surfaces are a series of domestic accoutrements—an elegantly curved chaise lounge, a large bed complete with tasseled bed spread, and a simple folding chair and long trestle table. In the second panel, interior and exterior are blurred even further as tropical plants, cacti, skyscrapers and telegraph wires all conflate into a flat two-dimensional plane. Patterns of foliage and fabric, stone and sky unite in homage to Hockney’s affinity for the French painters at the turn of the century: “I thought the one thing the French were marvelous at, the great French painters, was making beautiful marks: Picasso can’t make a bad mark, Dufy makes beautiful marks, Matisse makes beautiful marks” (ibid., p. 111). In the latter French artist’s Interior with an Etruscan Vase (1940), Matisse designs a living space out of palm fronds and furniture; his main figure is as much embedded in the background as she is fueled by the life-force coursing through her surroundings. Life effervesces out of its frame, uncontained by rigid wooden constructions. Thus, even that which should be defined by stark line, like the table and windowpane, surrender to the pulsating spirit of existence. Much like Matisse’s blossoming room, inspired by his family’s work in the textile trade, Hockney’s scene takes its cue from the artist’s personal experience of lush greenery in the Southern California hills and Los Angeles’ dynamic urban environment. Mundane space morphs into a mass of ebullient motifs, eschewing the discomforts that traditionally mark daily life. The present invitation, then, is a grand opportunity to step into Hockney’s carefree world, in which beautiful marks reign and figure melts into decorative ground.

This interest in the depiction of space began in the early 1980s, with Hockney’s attempts to escape the restrictions of naturalistic representation. With his work designing stage sets for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and his series of Polaroid collages, one of which featured Mo and Lisa, the artist began to explore different ways of representing three-dimensional space in two dimensions. In 1984, Hockney’s interest peaked during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he saw a series of 17th-century Chinese scrolls called The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour by master painter Wang Hui and assistants. This 70-foot-long painted silk scroll depicts in exquisite detail the visit of the Chinese leader and all the preparations that took place for that visit. “I spent four hours on my knees looking at it,” Hockney recalled, “and it was one of the most thrilling afternoons I’ve ever had. It was a marvelous work of art, and totally unknown to me” (ibid., p. 206). He spent the next few weeks looking at 30 or 40 other scrolls in an effort to understand how Chinese painters addressed the nature of landscapes and interiors before they had been exposed to the Western notion of single-point perspective.

Prior to the arrival of Western artists in China, the Renaissance understanding of perspective – that is, all lines converging to a single point on the canvas to give the illusion of depth - was unknown, and thus subsumed by compositions concerned less with optical reality and more with experiential accuracy. For Chinese painters, it was all about being in the painting, rather than observing the scene from the outside. They achieved such effect in the form of a scroll, a long and continuous narrative revealed scene by scene via the constant rolling and unrolling of the ends of scroll. Though these works remain fixed on paper, your experience of them, as you “walk through” various stories, is fluid. On looking at this unique method of painting, Hockney noted, “As you can see with this method of depicting space, the eye is wandering around already and you have to decide in a sense where to look” (D. Hockney, in P. Haas & D. Hockney, A Day on the Grand Canal with the Emperor of China (video), Milestone Films, 1988). Thus, in Hockney’s mind, a visit with his friends Mo and Lisa becomes not a series of single events, punctuated by memories and experiences, but an immersive continuum in which interior and exterior, landscape and portrait merge into one.

The vibrancy of Hockney’s paintings can trace their roots back to his upbringing in the decidedly unglamorous surroundings of Bradford in the north of England. Raised in a former industrial town that, as the artist was growing up in the 1950s had fallen on hard times, the attraction of escaping to new environs would have been unarguable. Having studied at the Royal College of Art in London, in 1964 Hockney moved to California and soon immersed himself in the artistic potential of the dazzling sunshine. “[Los Angeles was] the first time I had ever painted a place,” he later explained. “In London, I think I was put off by the ghost of Sickert, and I couldn’t see it properly. In Los Angeles, there were no ghosts… I remember seeing, within the first week, the ramp of a freeway going into the air and I suddenly thought: My God, this place needs its Piranesi; Los Angeles could have a Piranesi, so here I am” (D. Hockney, quoted in S. Howgate, David Hockney Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2006, p. 39). Like the many of the artists with whom he associated, Hockney avoided painting the seedy realities of urban living—the city had after all been a deadly war-zone of racism, rioting and looting during the Watts Riots of 1965. Instead, he chose to portray the "City of Angels" as a synthesized reality of the perfect American idyll, an image reinforced by the mainstream media and nearby Hollywood studios. Having found those places which best represented his singular vision of the American dream, Hockney no longer needed to access images of the place entirely from imagination.

Creatively equipped with a thriving artists’ community and abounding source imagery in real life, Hockney applied himself to “plundering Picasso and Matisse and loving every moment” (D. Hockney, quoted in C. S. Sykes, David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012, New York, 2014, p. 124), in what was to prove one of his most prolific periods. Produced from the freedom accompanying a life in the California sunshine surrounded by supportive peers, Hockney’s compositions of the early 1980s took on lives of their own, overflowing with the same energy of Matisse’s color-obsessed Fauves, half a century before. Even in remodeling his ranch in 1981, Hockney adorned his personal spaces with pinks and purples and painted his pool with ripples of water. Far from divorcing the joy of painting from its subjects, Hockney advocated in favor of leaving emotion in art: “…Anyone studying [Matisse] will say a great deal of his painting is about color and form, but to deny some of the art, to diminish it…The very fact that he drew and painted mostly women, not men. Why? Because he liked women. It’s unrealistic to deny that sentimental aspect of the pictures” (ibid., p. 53). Thus, Hockney drew portraits because he liked the sitters. He depicted houses because his own was a painter’s haven. He painted the trappings of evening gatherings because he could think of no better way to express the contentment found in spending time with friends.

A Visit with Mo and Lisa, Echo Park laid the foundations for one of the most important works of this period, another record of a California get-together, called A Visit with Don and Christopher, Santa Monica Canyon, 1984. Like the present work, this major painting prompts the viewer’s eye “to move in a certain way, stop in certain places, move on, and in doing so, reconstruct the space across time for itself” (L. Weschler, quoted by A. Wilson, ‘Experience of Space,’ in C. Stephens and A. Wilson, David Hockney, exh. cat., David Hockney, Tate Gallery, London, 2017, p. 145). Works such as this define Hockney’s oeuvre in the 1980s, years marked by intense artistic investigation as he revitalized his art practice. Throughout his peripatetic career, Hockney never shied away from exploring the full gamut of the artistic process, constantly inspired by his surroundings to produce a rich array of works. But it is with the vibrant landscape of Southern California, and the pools and people that inhabit it, that Hockney is most closely associated, casting a fresh eye upon the West coast perspective and lending a fresh ear to the rhythms of a sun-drenched life. Such subject matter has provided the rich seam of inspiration that undoubtedly renders Hockney one of the most enduring painters of his generation.

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