Painting: The Play's the Thing

In Southern California, where palm trees grow outside of hotel lobbies, one of the first palm trees that the visiting British artist ever saw was made of plastic. It was the kind of experience that has lured David Hockney, 28, into spending most of the past 2½ years in the U.S. "Cézanne used to paint pictures of paper flowers," he says, "and I painted that plastic tree not with a realistic sky but a realistic painted sky behind it."

Hockney is one of Britain's brighter young talents who unabashedly admire America's folk-pop imagery...

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