The oddest pictures in the show, and the largest Hodgkin has ever made — he usually works on a small scale, but these measure nearly seven by nine feet — are four panels titled after verses from “Home, Home, on the Range.” (During the World War II, Hodgkin was sent to live in America for three years.) They’re witty, grand, and moody, each pitched to a particular visual effect. In the concluding panel, “And the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day,” plump commas and streaking mini-comets, protozoic squirmers and darters, all green, amass in the picture’s upper half then separate and rain down into a dilated, liberating space that, thanks to the exposed wood grain, has its own streaked, plunging energies. Its nostalgic sobriety accommodates the actuality of the West’s open rangy spaces. I don’t know if Hodgkin has ever actually visited the American West, but that hardly matters. The imagining of the picture is Hodgkin’s most intimate encounter with his subject. He takes a corny sentiment and urges it toward sublimity. ■
Howard Hodgkin: Time and Place 2001–2010, is on view at the San Diego Museum of Art until May 1. 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-232-7931; sdmart.org.