Thursday, December 30, 2010

Defending an artist who may not need defending- Edward Hopper

           

Edward Hopper, Route 6, Eastham, oil, collection Swope Art Museum


Lisa Petrulis, the Curator at the Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana sent me a review of the Whitney Museum's current exhibition Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time (through April 10, 2011). Parts of the review I liked, other sections I disagreed with. But it did set me to thinking

What a tribute to Hopper's art that people all these years later are still so engaged with him (how many other painters from the '30's and'40's are getting such attention these days?). 





The writer of the review I mentioned above declares this early Hopper oil Soir Bleu to be "terrible." I don't think it's one of Hopper's best.  The man at the far left and the standing woman feel like Hopper left them unresolved. The grease painted clown however I find tellingly beautiful. I wonder how many painters today could knock out something comparable? At another point in the review at least one of Hopper's gems, the oil New York Interior, gets singled out for praise.




A danger to avoid when writing about art is getting stuck
with what the painter has painted for us rather than how the painter
painted the thing. The real psychology and emotion in a painting is
found in its chords of colors and the choreography of its shapes. A painting after all speaks to us on an unconscious level as well as in ways we're aware of. Just like the rhythm of certain songs makes you want to get up and dance, the rhythms of colors and shapes can impel us to feel. This is why we often have to reach for that nebulous term "talent." Some painters are just much better than others at composing their paintings in such a way that your eye becomes captivated and delighted.

That's why the Swope Museum's Route 6, Eastham is such a masterpiece. 

First off, it has that late afternoon sunlight that Hopper painted so
well. His lights and shadows breathe an almost living pulse into
everything they touch in that painting.

You can look at that rambling New England "add a room on when you
need one" architecture and see Hopper pulling them together into a 
whole. A lesser painter would have given us a fragmented mess. 
Hopper could be saying to us " look, things that seem like they could 
never connect to each other sometimes can". 

Hopper had an eye that discovered so many of the surprises of the
visual world. He had the tenacity and talent to put them into a form 
the rest of us can apprehend.

While it isn't included in the current exhibit at the Whitney Museum, Swope's Route 6, Eastham, will be included in an upcoming traveling exhibition revolving around the theme of the artist's painting and the preparatory drawings used to make them. 

No comments:

Post a Comment