David Hockney’s 18-Screen Video “The Jugglers” Having its U.S. Premiere at the Whitney in May

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Though he’s best-known for his bold-hued landscape paintings and iPad art evangelism — and, more recently, the tragic death of his friend and studio assistant Dominic Elliott — septuagenarian British artist David Hockney continues to explore new media. His first foray into multi-channel video, “The Jugglers, June 24th 2012″ (2012, pictured), will make its U.S. debut at the Whitney Museum next month, showing on 18 synchronized screens in the Kaufman Astoria Studios Film & Video Gallery on the institution’s second floor.

The nine-minute video, shot in Hockney’s light-filled Yorkshire studio with 18 cameras on the titular day last summer, shows 12 people dressed in black and juggling brightly colorful clubs against a primary-hued backdrop of red and blue. The near-total lack of shadows and flatness of perspective afforded by the multiple camera angles flattens the image and reduces the sense of spatial depth. The group’s movements are playfully accompanied by the seminal American military march “Stars & Stripes Forever.” The multi-screen performance recording recalls not only Hockney’s early collages of Polaroid photos, but also his frequent forays into set design.

“In this new video installation David Hockney surprises us once again, exploring how multiple perspectives can transform our experience of the moving image,” Whitney curator Chrissie Iles said in a statement. “The vivid tones of ‘The Jugglers’ evoke the intense color of Technicolor Hollywood film, while the jugglers’ playful movements echo the simple actions of early silent movies. Hockney mines the histories of cinema and painting through the lens of technology, to create a new way of seeing.”

Why the Whitney Museum of American Art is devoting a major solo presentation to a British artist isn’t addressed in the press release announcing the exhibition, nor on the museum’s website.

David Hockney: The Jugglers” runs from May 23-September 1 at the Whitney Museum.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: David Hockney, still from “The Jugglers, June 24th 2012,” 2012. © David Hockney. Image courtesy Hockney Pictures and Pace Gallery.)