David Hockney’s Happy Phenomenology

Hockney’s pictures have been derided as “merely decorative” and the late Peter Fuller takes up that criticism with the artist in the short clip posted below. Hockney’s musings link pleasure in his art to affirmations of his (gay) self: “We should like ourselves.” There’s another BBC program where the artist is sound-tracked by snatches from Stravinksy’s opera, “The Rake’s Progress,” which flashed your editor back to an 80s Hockney show that seemed largely about cruising. (Not that Hockney’s phenomenology of his intentional body in space is always so libidinal.) While gay liberation is on his canvasses, the splashy promesse de bonheure in Hockney’s art belongs to everybody everybody. It’s a 60s thing, though it evokes other avatars of happiness that deserve dap–Greeks who first depicted the human smile, young French revolutionaries who declared: “happiness is the new idea in Europe,” ex-West Africans who flipped the mask of tragedy even as their favorite color reminded them of their lost continent. It’s all about blue for Hockney too!

If you’re around New York, go see his show at the Met before it closes on February 25th.  B.D.

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