In Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4), David Hockney captures an endearing view of his friend and lover, Gregory Evans, during a forty-five day stay with master printmaker Kenneth Tyler at Tyler's Mt. Kisco home. Hockney’s various explorations of the Paper Pool series from this period remain a celebration of the artist’s highly-coveted and deeply personal theme in which painting and paper-making are fused. Both serendipity and chance intervened in the late summer of 1978, as Hockney found himself temporarily stranded in New York while attempting to return to California following a trip to London. Having misplaced his driver’s license, Hockney was forced to stay in New York and called Kenneth Tyler in order to help fill the time. It was during this visit to Mt. Kisco that Tyler introduced Hockney to a new technique for unique paper works that involved wet paper pulp impregnated with carefully mixed rich, saturated colored dyes resulting in painterly pressed paper pulp works including Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4).
While many of the works from the Paper Pools series are devoid of a figurative subject, instead focusing on the unique qualities of light, Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4) is one of three variations to include a human subject. Hockney explained the present work saying, “I didn’t like doing everything without figures, so I added Gregory in the pool...I drew the figure out very simply, then I made the mold, and used two pink colors which I put together and then I kneaded them with my fingers, which I thought was nice because it’s nice to do that to flesh. It was a good contrast to the effect of water and the effect of shadow” (David Hockney in Nikos Stangos, Ed., David Hockney: Paper Pools, New York 1980, p. 36). The subject, Gregory Evans, Hockney’s longtime companion and curator, has been a consistent model, inspiration and support system for Hockney throughout his life. The two met in 1974 and Hockney began making portraits of him almost immediately. When asked in a 2015 interview who the love of his life is Hockney replied, “Maybe Gregory,” which further cements the significance of the present work. Pinpoints of bright white peek through the cool blue paper pulp, giving the effect of sparkling light as it glistens across the surface of the pool water enveloping Gregory. Bathed in the aura the work emanates, the viewer becomes acutely aware of the sense of camaraderie between Hockney outside of the pool and Gregory soaking in the cool water as the afternoon sunshine draws long shadows across the pool deck.
This new process Tyler shared with Hockney involved the pouring of dyed liquid paper pulp into molds constructed from galvanized metal strips soldered together, almost like cookie cutters, onto a wet paper surface. Alongside Tyler, Hockney applied the colored paper pulp using several everyday tools including soup ladles, turkey basters, spoons and brushes further allowing for additional colored pulp and liquid dyes to be applied freehand. The result was then pressed between felts in a high-pressure hydraulic press and left to dry, ultimately creating a final piece where the color of the paper pulp vividly permeates the paper surface, giving it an intensity of hue that is inseparable from the sheet itself. After experimenting with various colors and techniques, Hockney made his first images including Sunflower, Steps with Shadow, Green Pool with Diving Board and Shadow and Gregory in the Pool. Hockney found this wet, messy process to be naturally suited to capturing the liquid nature of the swimming pools within the confines of the sheet. Spurred on by Tyler’s excitement for the physicality of this new medium, Hockney became energized and worked for forty-five days straight mastering this new technique, learning its limitations and transcending them to create vibrant works such as the present work, Gregory in the Pool (Paper Pool 4). Inspired by Tyler’s swimming pool, this dazzling series reprises one of Hockney’s most iconic motifs. Here, Hockney recorded the effects of sunlight as it reflected upon the water at various time of the day, creating a series of unique works on paper, in which dye-infused paper pulp was pressed into stunning, color-soaked sheets.
Hockney expressed his satisfaction with the series saying, “They are like paintings, which is why I stayed; if they hadn’t been like paintings, I think I would have left after doing the first two or three small ones, I would have thought that was enough. And they also helped me in another way: painting in England before, I kept saying I thought the paintings were getting too gray, too tight and I kept getting finicky and I wanted to be bolder. Another thing that was nice about Paper Pools was that you were forced to do it that way, you were forced to think of things in another way, you couldn’t work in the way you have been doing before” (David Hockney in Nikos Stangos, Ed., David Hockney: Paper Pools, New York 1980, p. 100).
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