Executed in 1978, Gregory in the Pool I (Paper Pool 4) shows Hockney exploring his most famous and loved theme, the swimming pool. However, this is not the sun-drenched swimming pool of California, but instead that of Ken Tyler, the owner of a graphic workshop and studio, near New York. Tyler had developed a process that mixed painting and printing, that involved the use of pulp, and Hockney had immediately seen the potential of this medium for pictures of pools to create a sculptural and ineven surface.
Hockney explored the theme of the pool in a group of works executed in this manner in 1978, but one of the most iconic was his image of Gregory in the Pool. This work has a deceptive simplicity which derives in part from the process of making the pulp pictures. Fields of coloured pulp are pressed onto the base support, creating various colours and forms. In Gregory in the Pool I (Paper Pool 4), the shapes and fields of colour appear abstract in their composition, comprising three coloured bands (the top one the marbled blue) and then the simple shapes of the ladder, as well as Gregory Evans himself, with whom Hockney had embarked on a relationship some four years earlier. Even Gregory is presented with great simplicity, a two-coloured figure projecting out of the blue water. There is a rigour and formality to Hockney's presentation of the scene that makes it appear quasi-abstract, yet concise and informative.
It is the economy of means that makes Gregory in the Pool I (Paper Pool 4) so beguiling and effective. This marked a great revival in Hockney's art. This image packs a punch, presenting us with a raw and extreme reincarnation of the poise and restraint that characterised many of his most famous Pop-era works. It was doubtless Gregory in the Pool's effectiveness as an image that led to its being used on the cover of Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Cunningham's debut novel, Golden States, two years later.