David Hockney: 1960–1968: A Marriage of Styles, Contemporary, Nottingham

3.00

When Hockney first made a splash

How wise is it for a brand new art centre in a major provincial city to open its doors with a show by David Hockney? Isn't the Hockney story – and aren't Hockney's works in general – just too well-known to deserve yet another outing?

In part this must be true. We know too much about Hockney. We've seen too much of Hockney. There have been several shows devoted to his works which have opened in the past two or three years, including an exhaustive – far too exhaustive – survey of his portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, a show of his recent landscape paintings at Annely Juda in London, together with a major museum show in Swabia.

The difficulty in part has to do with Hockney himself. He has always pushed himself forward as a big part of the story of his art. He still does. It's the tale of the gutsy, cussed Yorkshire laddo with the dyed blonde hair who stormed London at the beginning of the 1960s, and then rapidly reinvented himself as a cool painter of Californian pool-side languor with a special homoerotic charge. The fact is we always seem to know what he has been doing, and in the relatively recent past he has been as much partially failing as partially succeeding. Do you remember those awful brown paintings of his dogs? Or those weak re-paintings of Picasso? Why in heaven's name did Picasso need re-painting anyway? And we can't forget them very easily either because the abiding presence of Mr Hockney is always helping to draw our attention back to them.

So why Hockney again, and what's new about this show? The new director answers the first question without a second's hesitation. A new gallery such as this one can't afford to take any chances and, well, Michael, who is as well-known as Hockney? Isn't he our first near-guaranteed crowd-pleasing, crowd-pulling blockbuster? There's a bit more to it than that though, thankfully. This show brings back into the spotlight not only some of those first major encounters with California, but it also cleverly draws our attention to the way in which Hockney himself was responding, in his very earliest paintings, to the fashionable art of his time, to minimalism and abstract expressionism, for example. Hockney is not by instinct an abstract painter – he never has been – but he makes us aware of the ways in which various kinds of austere abstraction work on us. Then, quite suddenly, as if blowing a raspberry – Hockney has always been very good at blowing raspberries – he has a bit of a joke at its expense. And he often does it as a way of saying, with quite wilful and undaunted pride, that he is a gay man in a country where homosexual acts would remain illegal for at least another half decade.

So you can read many of these early works as quite pointed acts of political defiance, not only finding a new way to paint modern, but also a new way to paint and point up a message. So some of these very early works, Going to be a Queen for Tonight (1960), for example, have a wonderful raw energy which seems to draw on the muscular excess of gestural painting, but also lightens it, and even pokes fun at it, by adding bits and pieces of text or unexpected splashes of colour, and all this seems to be saying – more shouting than saying – that, yes, there is more to life than a kind of self-enclosed spirituality.

And so, much to my surprise, to find myself looking at Hockneys such as these proved to be something quite special after all. The difficulty proved to be that after the brilliance of those early years, he then had to live with himself for the rest of his life, and that kind of thing is always difficult.

To 24 January (0115 924 2421)

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore