David Hockney and Heather Gwen Martin at L.A. Louver Gallery

David Hockney and Heather Gwen Martin at L.A. Louver Gallery

reviewed by Genie Davis


A paired exhibition at the L.A. Louver Gallery presents the works of David Hockney and Heather Gwen Martin through September 2nd. Like the most profound memories of a summer vacation, David Hockney’s The Yosemite Suite, originated as iPad drawings. This tribute to the grandeur of the Yosemite Valley consists of more than two dozen prints. The prints are taken from the iPad renderings created by Hockney, who used the digital device in place of a canvas, creating the wonders before him as if he were plein air painting on canvas.

The exhibition captures the clean, vibrant color Hockney is known for, and vibrantly conveys an impressionistic portrait of the wonders of nature spread before him. Some pieces create a dense and full realized richness, others are more minimalistic. They have an exuberant, immediate quality that is particularly evident in the five larger format pieces which are mounted on Dibond. The remaining 24 prints are on single sheets of paper 37 x 28 inches. In both formats, the works comprise a look that is somewhat photographic, yet also sketch like, as if photographic elements had been blended with quickly, but minutely rendered pastel sketches.

Hockney’s works here merge a variety of angles, somewhat disorienting the viewer even as one is submerged in his unique world. Images of familiar beauty seem foreign, as if viewed in an alternate universe. Above all, it is his color that stands out, as with the almost-chartreuse trees vibrating in the foreground in his Untitled No. 8, while a forest pops up on a dream-like, granite topped mountain behind them. The perspective here is somewhat skewed, the bright trees larger than life, the forest behind them miniaturized.

Untitled No. 23 takes on the familiar facade of the Ahwanee Lodge, and the texture here dances as much as the color. The familiar stones have an individualized, building-block-like shape, while the blue hills behind the lodge are a mass of lines that create shadow and depth.

There is a child-like quality to these works that compels viewers to fill in the gaps in nuance and embrace the immediacy and liveliness of these prints.

Well paired with Hockney’s works here are those of Heather Gwen Martin. Like Hockney, her work, too, is all about color. In this series, her color takes over the surfaces of her works and imbues each painting with a passionate light that seems to soak into the linen on which they are painted. Once a comic book colorist, the works here reflect that background in their vivid saturation. Abstract, the colors swirl and coalesce into shapes both sensual and fluid. While some pieces reflect forms that could be flowers, waves, or alien creatures, others are shapes that seem to stem from the subconscious, and remain up to the individual viewer to define.

Her oil-on-linen “Breezy” evokes a flower and a leaf, with a gold stamen and rich pink petals. The black forms in the painting are undefined, a counterpart to the color that breaks up the idea of floral shape, and upends expectations by the viewer. The larger “Crosscurrent” soars like a drifting balloon pulled by birds. It’s a winged painting, drawing the viewer’s eye into motion, even as the soft grey background recedes like a faded sky.

Paired together, the Hockney and Martin exhibitions serve as a kind of counterbalance. Both are all about color, texture, and shape. Hockney, moving into a digital medium, creates riffs on familiar yet fantastic landscapes, shaping a new, cooly detailed yet innocent world. Martin presents a passionate love of the act of painting, and somewhat indefinable shapes welded into their own universe.

Singly and together, both artists create worlds well worth exploring, and plunge viewers into a carnival of color that renders these worlds both accessible and transcendent.

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