Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway

One of my favorite pieces of art is David Hockney’s “Pearblossom Highway, 11-18 April 1986, #2.” It is an almost perfect image of the Antelope Valley along the northern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains. I have driven that road a number of times on my way to Devil’s Punchbowl County Park, and even as far as Victorville—when I didn’t want to face traffic on the I-10 or the Pomona Freeway.

I am not always a fan of Hockney’s work, but this particular photo montage, in its own way, gives a better idea of the terrain than any single photograph would. It was originally created for Vanity Fair out of 800 photographs to support a story about the road trip that Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Humbert Humbert took to Death Valley. For the story of the creation of this image, click on this website by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.The actual site being depicted is the intersection of the Pearblossom Highway with 165th Street. The stop sign is no longer there, as a street light has replaced it. Also, the highway at this point has been widened to four lanes.

The Antelope Valley is still a desolate place, even though some half million people now live there, mostly along California Highway 14 as it wends north to join U.S. 395. The Pearblossom Highway (California 138) connects the Antelope Valley Freeway (California 14) with the I-15 at Victorville.

It’s a long and lonely haul, especially if one is behind a loaded big rig. But then, that is a good description of the L.A. experience.