Of Obedience, Faith, Adhesiveness

OF obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look, there is to me something profoundly affecting in large masses of men, following the lead of those who do not believe in men.
—-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 79 Thought

Adhesiveness (detail) David Hockney Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Adhesiveness (detail)
David Hockney
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Label Text:

David Hockney
British, born 1937

Adhesiveness, 1960
Oil on board
Museum purchase
When David Hockney painted Adhesiveness, he was concerned with creating works that reflected the lessons of modernist abstraction but also contained recognizable imagery. To this end, he began writing on his paintings, utilizing words, letters, and numerals as signposts to their content. This period of Hockney’s work is situated between the Expressionism of Francis Bacon and the emergence of Pop art, which Hockney would help pioneer in Europe and later in the United States.

Adhesiveness is an homage to the American poet Walt Whitman, who used the prenological term first to describe love among men and later to describe an ideal in which not only the States would be bonded, but the world at large could be unified. In the early 1960s Hockney began to allude to his homosexuality in his work, and the symbols he has included in Adhesiveness are clues to this aspect of his life. Whitman, too, was homosexual, and here Hockney borrows from the poet a childlike numeric code for initials, identifying one figure as himself (4.8 = D.H.) and the other as Whitman (23.23) – W.W.). Hockney created a number of compositions at this time that depict personal relationships (real or imaginary), a theme he has explored throughout his career and is now strongly associated with his art.