David Hockney has been wrestling with photography for decades, vigorously refuting its claim (or the claim made on its behalf) of veracity to experience.
He has trumpeted the medium's limitations -- saying, "I mean, photography is all right if you don't mind looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed cyclops" -- and coyly transcended them in photo-collages mimicking the skittish path that vision actually follows.
In his new work at L.A. Louver, Hockney keeps up the argument, but the rant is less fun to witness. Using a digital toolbox, he has made a series of slick "photographic drawings," each a nearly continuous composite of hundreds of discrete views.
The seams are gone, and it turns out the seams are largely what kept the surfaces of those earlier photographic works interesting and alive. In an effort to compensate for what he regards as photography's shortcomings, and the distortions of single-point perspective, Hockney inverts and skews and splinters his (our) angle on things, but for all his destabilizing, the prints feel weirdly dead.
The paintings in the show come as a welcome reprieve. The innate and uncontested fictiveness of painting is terrain that Hockney occupies with more grace, less didactic struggle. Even the simplest pieces, a group of seated portraits, hum with personality and a gravity in fruitful friction with the artist's brilliant, vibrant color schemes.
Most eloquent of all, as both portrait and testament to the complexities of truth, logic and representation, is a painting of a single chair, an intimate study, beautifully clumsy and utterly true.
L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-4955, through Sept. 19. Closed Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 4. After Sept. 8, closed Sundays and Mondays. www.lalouver.com