Euro-American traditions of landscape art tend to work differently from those of Native peoples, often picturing the land from afar as a space to behold. James Doolin (1932 – 2002) carefully studied the landscape to create Bridges (1989), spending a week at the off-ramp from the 110 Freeway to Interstate 5 in Los Angeles. Using principles that originated in European painting, Doolin designed an expansive vista in which a vast space is seen from a single vantage point. The small figure in the foreground — intended as a stand-in for the artist or viewer — also appears in many traditional landscape paintings. By applying these motifs to 20th Century Los Angeles, Doolin refers to the power of historical images in shaping our modern experience of place.
Photographed in the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
David Hockney’s most famous paintings of Los Angeles, such as A Bigger Splash (1967), depict a commonplace aspect of the city: private swimming pools. This is the final and the largest of three versions on the same theme, all based on an image that the artist found in a book about home pools. Hockney took care to keep the backdrop as flat — almost abstract — as possible, using rollers to apply the acrylic of the azure sky. The splash, in contrast, meticulously rendered with small brushes, took the artist nearly two weeks to finish. “I loved the idea of painting this thing which lasts for two seconds,” he said. “The painting took much longer to make than the splash existed for.” The result is one of the most iconic depictions of a certain upscale California lifestyle; aspirational, and perhaps more Hollywood make-believe than real.
Photographed as Part of the David Hockney Career Retrospective, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC Through February 25th, 2018.
Jeff Bark’s newest body of work, an exhibition of new photographs he calls GOLDENBOY (now at Hasted Kraeutler), instantly appealed to both Geoffrey and me, but for entirely different reasons. Geoffrey was wildly smitten by the bare-chested hottie who is the subject of half of the photos in the exhibit. But I was more intrigued by the moody, lost-weekend vibe of the yellow-hued still life scenes, and the recreation of what I correctly took to be a southern California backyard – mostly because it reminded me so much of the backyard of my own childhood home located in Orange County.
GoldenBoy Backyard Set
GoldenBoy Backyard Set Alternate View
This backyard (which was recreated for the project inside Bark’s NYC apartment!) provides the setting for many of the photos. When you couple the erotically charged images of a handsome young man with what looks like an environment of leisurely suburban decay, to say that these photos encourage imaginative extrapolation is a huge understatement.