Cover image of the review

David Hockney: Current

11 Mar 2017
11 Nov - 13 Mar 2017

With David Hockney: Current, the NGV has made the unusual decision to devote a major exhibition to a selection of work from the last decade by a 79 year-old artist active since the early 1960s. Perhaps this can be explained by the popular appeal of the iPhone and iPad drawings that make up much of David Hockney's output in this period, but the choice is interesting insofar as the narrow focus directs our attention to a body of work that would undoubtedly appear as a mere afterthought if seen in a retrospective exhibition that also included Hockney's best paintings of the 1960s and 1970s.

The exhibition invites speculation as to whether—to use the phrase coined by Theodor Adorno in his analysis of the late works of Beethoven and expanded by Edward Said into an interpretative model—Hockney has developed a 'late style'. Although Hockney's recent work demonstrates none of the tragic intransigence that, in Adorno and Said, makes late style a paradigm of aesthetic resistance, neither does the work on display here sagely 'crown a lifetime of achievement'. Instead, like the late works of Picasso, Hockney's late work is a mess, a jumble of experimentation, ossification, and narcissism.

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