J. Paul Getty Museum Acquires Hockney's "Pearblossom Hwy"
Los Angeles, CA.--The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today its acquisition of Pearblossom Hwy.,11-18th April 1986, #2, one of David Hockney's largest and finest works to be composed of assembled photographs. Created by the artist over nine days in the Antelope Valley, outside Los Angeles, it is comprised of a mounted mosaic of over 700 photographs that depicts the vast desert landscape. Informed by influences ranging from Cubism to Pop Art, it is a perceptive commentary on the experience of illusionary space. It is the first major work by Hockney to enter the Museum's collection. It becomes part of the Museum's distinguished collection of over 65,000 photographs dating from the 1830s to the present day.
The Museum has acquired the picture from the collection of the artist through his dealer Peter Goulds of L.A. Louver Gallery of Los Angeles. The work, measuring 10 feet in width and six feet in height, will be placed on view in the photographs galleries of the new Museum at the Getty Center when it opens in December 1997.
The picture shows the Pearblossom Highway (Rte. 138) cutting 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 sandy 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 expressive 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.
"Pearblossom Hwy. not only shows us our own desert, it continues three hundred years of landscape panoramas in paintings," said John Walsh, Director of the Getty Museum. "David Hockney has taught us fresh ways to see our own surroundings in Southern California. The clear light, the sparkling blue pool water, the pleasures of just sitting around, are all part of the world's mental picture of Los Angeles, which an émigré Englishman helped to create."
"Pearblossom Hwy. will be quite at home in the Museum's collection that contains photographs by painters such as Edgar Degas, Thomas Eakins, Charles Sheeler, Andy Warhol, and Sigmar Polke," said Weston Naef, the Museum's Curator of Photographs. "Hockney is perhaps better known as a painter, but his photocollages are every bit as important in his body of work. The new acquisition will occupy a prominent position in our opening installation of photographs."
Hockney first began to experiment in photocollage in 1982, and a symbiotic relationship between his painting and photography continues to this day. Pearblossom Hwy., #2 culminated a four-year series in which Hockney experimented with photographic collage. The artist himself recently said of this work: "It is far and away the most complex and most successful of the photocollages I have done, and I do not expect to make more in the future."
David Hockney has lived in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, in 1937. He attended Bradford College of Art and later the Royal College of Art. He proceeded to achieve international renown for his drawing and printmaking.
By the time he was in his mid-twenties, in the early 1960s, he had become one of the leading Pop artists in Britain. His work has been the subject of many traveling retrospectives and his paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and theater sets have been widely collected by major museums.
Pearblossom Hwy., #2 is the more finished of two works that Hockney devoted to this subject, undertaken near Palmdale in the Antelope Valley, which also involved numerous preliminary "sketches" with the camera. Hockney has made a gift to the Museum of the negatives and a 1/4-scale maquette, Pearblossom Hwy., #1, used to prepare the finished work. The new additions become part of the Museum's holding of photographs that use alternative picture-making techniques.
The Museum's collection of American and European photographs is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Its foundation rests on the acquisition in 1984 of four whole private collections, those of Samuel Wagstaff, Arnold Crane, Bruno Bischofberger, and Volker Kahmen/George Heusch. It is particularly strong in British and French photography before 1900, German photography of the Weimar period, and American photography from the 1850s to the 1950s, with special strengths in images of the Civil War era and pioneer photography in California. Among its other strengths are photographs by women before 1950 and photographs by artists who have worked primarily in other media, including painters, sculptors and even architects. The Museum's holdings of contemporary photographs focus on images by mature photographers that relate to the collection in terms of style or in their historical references, or that reflect upon the nature of the medium itself. Over the past few years, the Museum has mounted installations of work by living photographers including Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Frederick Sommer, Carrie Mae Weems, and the Los Angeles-based Edmund Teske (recently deceased).
The Museum's other collections include European Paintings from the 13th through 19th century, Medieval and Renaissance European Manuscripts, French Decorative Arts, European Sculpture, European Drawings, and Greek and Roman Antiquities.
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The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.