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Ten Years in Focus: The Artist and the Camera

At the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, March 25-August 10, 2008

September 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum will put David Hockney’s Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2 on exhibit for the first time since the opening photography exhibition at the Getty Center in1997.  Pearblossom Hwy. #2, one of Hockney’s largest and finest photo-based works will be included in the 10th anniversary special exhibition Ten Years In Focus: The Artist and the Camera, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, March 25-August 10, 2008.  

Pearblossom Hwy. #2, measuring over nine feet in width and six feet in height, was created by Hockney over nine days in the Antelope Valley, outside Los Angeles, and is comprised of a mosaic of over 700 mounted photographs that depict the once desolate Mojave desert landscape.  Informed by influences ranging from Cubism to Pop Art, it is a witty and perceptive commentary on how to picture the third dimension.

The photocollage shows an unidentified rural street as it intersects the Pearblossom Highway (Rte. 138) in a then undeveloped location of the Antelope Valley.  The road cuts through the crystal clear atmosphere of springtime in the desert toward an intersection, as stop signs and Joshua trees vie for attention. The photograph has Hockney's characteristic palette, rich in blues, greens, yellows, and ochre tones. In the foreground, the detritus of the road — a crushed beer can, an empty Bud Lite box, a can of Castrol GTX motor oil — is juxtaposed with the grandeur of the distant snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains and with exotic Joshua trees. The eye immediately focuses on two "Stop Ahead" signs — one standing to the right of the road and another one painted directly on the asphalt — that playfully suggest the irony between deep-space perspective and the picture's flat surface.

In the 1970s, Hockney began to make photographs almost obsessively first using instant Polaroid materials and later employing a high quality plastic camera and commercially processed color prints.  When composing these photocollages, he played with the symbiotic relationship between his paintings and photography.  Pearblossom Hwy., #2 culminated four-years of intense engagement with photography resulting in almost 200 finished works.

Pearblossom Hwy., #2 is the larger and more complete of two pieces that Hockney devoted to this subject which also involved numerous preliminary "sketches" with the camera. The Museum also holds a 1/4-scale maquette, Pearblossom Hwy., #1, used to prepare the work on view.

David Hockney has lived in Los Angeles for almost 30 years. He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, in 1937. He attended Bradford College of Art and later the Royal College of Art, London.  By the time he was in his mid-20s, in the early 1960s, he had become one of the leading British Pop artists. His subject matter ranges from portraiture to still life; his style spans representation to abstraction.  In addition to photography, Hockney’s diverse media include printmaking, painting, drawings, filmmaking, and theater design.

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Desiree Alcalde-Wayne
Getty Communications Dept.

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