David Hockney in Yosemite

Read on if you like David Hockney, Yosemite Valley, de Young Museum, Bigger Yosemite

by Traci Hukill

Jan. 6, 2014—It's the last room on the first floor of the exhibit, the better to blow your little mind. Five towering 12-foot-tall works depict familiar scenes from Yosemite Valley: El Capitan all lit up; a dark lane of giant trees lining a service road; the classic Valley entrance shot with Bridalveil Falls on the right and Half Dome in the distance, morning sun glinting off two bright saplings in the foreground. If you like art and love Yosemite—and maybe even if you love art but only like Yosemite—the effect is transporting. You are there on the Valley floor, looking up, full of wonder and satisfyingly dwarfed by gorgeous immensity.

This is "Bigger Yosemite," a series of iPad drawings created by artist David Hockney on a visit in October 2011. It's on display as part of Hockney's show "A Bigger Exhibition" at the de Young Museum in San Francisco through Jan. 20. The series features some classic Hockney touches, like a flat blue sky and almost cartoonishly bright El Capitan in Yosemite II, October 16th 2011, which recalls the palette of earlier works like Nick Wilder and A Bigger Splash.

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"Bigger Yosemite" was definitely the highlight of the show for yours truly, but the rest of the exhibition—mainly portraits of elegant men posing for the artist and large-format landscapes of Hockney's homeland of Yorkshire—captures the attention, not least because it shows off the artist's prolific output and willingness to experiment. Hockey is 76, but this show features iPhone and iPad drawings on LED displays as well as video that shouldn't be as arresting as it is. (One series shows the same stretch of English country road in all four seasons, each display consisting of 9 video frames advancing ever so slowly down the lane in slightly off-kilter perspective.)

Extend the holiday. Go to San Francisco and see this show. You'll be glad you did.

"A Bigger Exhibition" shows at the de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, through Jan. 20. Admission is $26. Check website for hours.