Sunday, April 06, 2008

Getting close to Hopper

Amazingly coincident
with the exhaustive exhibit
of Winslow Homer at the Art Institute

is this exhausting exhibit of Edward Hopper
encouraging the intrepid viewer
to see both in one day
and speculate on comparisons

And first, we can notice
that Hopper liked trains
while Homer liked boats.

(the above was done early in his life
and it's so lively-
and isn't travel especially exciting
when you haven't done much yet?)

another early painting.
Those calligraphic yellow stripes
are so enjoyable -- they feel like
they're the last marks he made on the canvas.

And the whole setting has a feeling of excitement.
She's not alone in this room,
and this is another kind of trip
that still feels new to him

Looking into the neighbor's windows.

Should we really be doing this ?

Another nude woman in a bedroom,
but this time she's alone,
really alone,
and I remember staring out
the early morning windows of Manhattan,
wondering what kind of day will happen
in that big bustling city

I also recall this kind of scene,
of getting to the auditorium early,
and sharing those moments of utter boredom
that precede even the best performances.

(and look, up close, at that guys eyes,
they're solid black - like the demons
in a certain genre of contemporary television )

This was my favorite painting in the show,
I suppose because I too
have stared with wonder at this island in the middle
of the East River -- so dark, quiet and imposing.
A place that I'm sure is more enjoyable to look at
than to be in.
(certainly - back in Hopper's day
when Blackwell's Island had some kind of
penitentiary on it.)

This is a large painting,
and the blue swirls in the foreground
are very delightful

I like Hopper more when takes us outside
to stand in the sun,
and these jpgs do no justice
to the lively excitement of the actual paintings.

He did a whole series of light houses,
and Captain Upton's was my favorite.

Here's another of my favorite house paintings.
Maybe they're kind of forbidding from a distance,
but as you stand very close,
there's a delightful attention to the detail,
not of boards and windows,
but of paint -- applied thick or applied thin,
ever so carefully
wherever it's applied

The interior scenes all seem a bit creepy to me,
and who would ever paint their apartments green ?

And why is Hopper still looking into people's windows?

But yes -- this is a wonderful vignette

I'm much happier when Hopper takes us outside,
and here I have to guess
that he's remembering Homer's paintings
of the Bahamas.
(and maybe Turner, too)

And I love to go on the road with him.
(when have telephone poles ever looked so good?)

Apparently Hopper loved to drive around the country,
from coast to coast,
and I'm glad he's taken us along.

(and again --when you get up real close
the surface is delicious)

Here he is ...
a fine American man,
looking you straight in the eye.

But there's not much time to talk,
he's got to get back in his car
and head down the road.


Whoops, I almost forgot to compare him to Winslow Homer.

They're certainly both the poets of loneliness, aren't they ?

But Homer liked to seek it out in the lonely places
out in the wilds,
while Hopper found it right next door in the big city.

And though Homer just seemed to get better and better
as he got older --all obsessed with painting as he was,
Hopper seems to have peaked just as he was getting famous
around 1940,
and after that he kept looking for the creepy/edgy
and finding it too.

(he probably needed to forget about the museums,
galleries and critics --
and just head off to the mountain streams and distant shores
like Homer did.)


Blogger GEM said...

I love the muscular sensitivity of Hopper's paintings, his wonderful balace of tonalities in the pictures, the sense of privacy and aloneness I feel when I look at his images. Unfortunately, haven't had the pleasure to see his paintings except in reproductions. I like how you talk about the beuty and satisfactory surfaces of his paintings. They do look like they can be licked and come out sensing and tasting, texturewise, beautiful. G

April 14, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

I never really cared for Hopper until I saw all these paintings.

Of course -- I'd seen "Nighthawks" -- but that one seems so unpleasant to me. Maybe it's just too big -- since I like that kind of dark, urban, film noir moodiness in a small etching.

Not all of his other paintings are lickable -- but many of them were really a trip to the ice cream shop.

April 15, 2008  
Blogger Robert said...

Hooper is obviousely doing the planet. Having read this post ages ago a big bell rang when I was listening to BBC Radio 4 "Front Row" programme when they mentioned an exhibition "Art in the age of steam" at the Walker Gallery and mentioned Edward Hooper. See here

and here

April 23, 2008  

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