This Honolulu Exhibition of David Hockney Prints Trades One Paradise for Another

The show, which brings together sixty year's worth of drawings, collages, photographic works and iPad sketches, is worth the trip to the Aloha State.

Viewers are encouraged to explore Hockney’s works from different perspectives. Courtesy the Honolulu Museum of Art / Jordan D Schnitzer and his family foundation

For most, landing in Hawaii means finally arriving in paradise. For the self-avowed aesthete, however, white sand beaches and playfully swaying palms are only the amuse-bouche in a larger journey of cultural hedonism. An entirely different sort of paradise can be found behind the doors of the Honolulu Museum of Art, where six decades’ worth of prints by celebrated British artist David Hockney are mounted in Hockney’s largest retrospective print exhibition to date.

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“Perspective Should Be Reversed,” which brings together more than 140 drawings, collages, photographic works and iPad sketches in a variety of dimensions from the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation collection, invites you into the artist’s world. The exhibition is presented chronologically, with six sections, starting with Hockney’s early works and ending with digital paintings he made during the height of the pandemic.

Portraits by David Hockney. Courtesy the Honolulu Museum of Art / Jordan D Schnitzer and his family foundation

Each section immerses the viewer in Hockney’s brightly hued and stylized world in a way that feels intimate—it’s pure Hockney, with all of the signature reverse perspectives and shifting vanishing points that have for decades drawn viewers in. We not only see what he saw but live through him, immersed in David Hockney’s friendships and relationships in the show’s “Portraits of Self and Others” section, which features portraits from ‘Hockney’s Friends Series’ (1970), the ‘Moving Focus Series,’ and the artist’s iPad drawings from 2012.

Another section is dedicated to a series of landscapes created from Hockney’s memory, each print a portal into a destination thousands of miles from Hawaii. Large-scale prints place viewers in the woodlands of East Yorkshire near the artist’s hometown. Perspective-altering scenes of the Hotel Acatlán: First Day print transports one to the courtyard of Hockney’s accidental hotel stay in Mexico. And the serene setting of the Hockney in Normandy prints is a mental escape to the French countryside.

David Hockney’s imagined landscapes. Courtesy the Honolulu Museum of Art / Jordan D Schnitzer and his family foundation

The focal point of the exhibition is its namesake work, Perspectives Should Be Reversed (2014), in which the viewer is both art appreciator and artwork. In the Studio invites us into the artist’s studio to see Hockney standing amidst a large body of his works. Then there is A Bigger Card Players, a painting that breaks the fourth wall, integrating the viewer into the pictured game of cards.

SEE ALSO: David Hockney’s Work Will Star in a New Annual Auction at Phillips

But of course, there’s more to it. The defining exhibition piece Looking at Flowers takes prints from his 2021 ‘20 Flowers and a Bigger Picture’ series to create a colossal picture-in-picture work showing us two versions of Hockney viewing a wall of his iPad-drawn flower artworks from different perspectives. The painting is recreated in the exhibition—one wall has the complete collection of flowers in its first time on display as a group in a U.S. museum along with furniture arrangements. Honolulu Museum of Art visitors can, in effect, see what Hockney saw by sitting where he sat or experience his work however they prefer by choosing a unique spot from which to view the blooms.

On the subject of iPads, walking through the gallery is inspiring, and “Perspective Should Be Reversed” invites us to adopt Hockney’s viewpoint in another way: by creating our own masterpieces at a station with iPads prepped with black digital canvases. It’s an engaging way to reinforce the journey embodied in the exhibition: one that takes viewers not only to distant lands but also through the years of a life. Walking through the Honolulu Museum of Art’s halls, it’s easy to forget that once you step outside, you’ll still be in paradise. It’s a sign of a well-executed exhibition.

Perspective Should Be Reversed” is on view at the Honolulu Museum of Art through March 10.

This Honolulu Exhibition of David Hockney Prints Trades One Paradise for Another