David Hockney Installation Comes to Life with the Magic of Theater Lighting

WASHINGTON, DC—David Hockney has created a magical experience inside a dark room—“Snails Pace with Vari-Lites.” Over a nine-minute period the large painting changes color; It appears to move and it seems like its textures and shapes protrude and recede.

The exhibit copy describes the painting as a transitional artwork “enriched by the magic of theatrical lighting that transforms colors into performers, a dramatis personae of shifting hues and intensities.”

The lively work is an exclamation mark on Hockney’s 20-year career as a set designer for operas. In the mid-1990s, the English artist’s hearing had sufficiently declined so that he could no longer appreciate the music for which he was designing so he decided to focus on his painting.

The installation is on view in the contemporary gallery of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.

All photos by Arts Observer

“Snails Pace with Vari-Lites: Painting as Performance,” 1995-96 (oil on two canvases, acrylic on canvas-covered masonite, wood dowels with Vari-Lites).

Post Your Thoughts