Author: PJ Murphy

No Party Favors: A Review of Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney at the Getty Center

It seems entirely appropriate for a celebration of David Hockney’s eightieth birthday to take place in Los Angeles. The party is being held at the Getty Center with a small exhibition of self-portraits and photographic compositions. The Getty is, of course, one of the world’s preeminent photography institutions, and Hockney’s work sits comfortably among the center’s milieu. Hockney’s self-created mythos, which he carefully constructs through his drawn and painted self-portraits, revolves entirely around Southern California. Despite other parties being held for him around the world, this location is ideal. Anyone familiar with Hockney’s work will not be surprised to see that elements of domestic life in Southern California recur throughout the exhibition. One expects to find swimming pools, lounge chairs, and outdoor decks in Hockney’s art, but it is important to consider how these examples (which are mostly culled from the 1980s) differ from his earlier pieces. The British artist’s work from the 1960s has become synonymous with stereotypes about the Golden State: sexy, colorful, and superficial. Hockney’s early California paintings boldly combine these stereotypes …