Friday, August 17, 2007

Sunlight on a Building

I want to write about Hopper while it's still fresh. All of it. Driving around town for parking. Pizza in the cafeteria. The crowds. A tap on his shoulder. Audiophiles. The Gloucester room. The strange proportions of the woman in "Office at Night." "Eyeless people." The neat handwriting in his notebooks, his wife's descriptions. A film conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Hopper. And Jo, the face that launched a thousand ships. Later, finding A at the crowded bar and shaking it as Willie played. Getting EM to dance and Tad and the others.

At the beginning of the exhibit having not seen enough of Hopper's work, I could not describe myself as a fan. At the end of the exhibit, after seeing a large collection of his work, I will not describe myself as fan.

I appreciate Hopper's capabilities and I like some things about some of his work. I like his clean, simple lines--his use of light and color, and that he painted ordinary scenes in unordinary ways, sometimes from the bottom up or top down, sparse and austere. I like that he painted at a time of day when the light is long, that his favorite thing to paint was sunlight on a building and that he described his work with few words, allowing critics and historians and everyone else to interpret it or not interpret it however.

Some argue that Hopper was trying to make a statement about modern city life, isolation, solitude, ordinariness, and lack of privacy. But I'm not convinced that he was *trying* to make a statement about anything. I envision a deliberate, probably grumpy, somewhat anal man with an interest in outdated architecture and a longing for some unreachable something or someone, perhaps my own invention of this person getting in the way of the art. He painted what he wanted to paint and when he felt he had exhausted a place and himself, he moved somewhere else and painted that.

By the end of the exhibit, I felt emotionally vacant and withdrawn. There's something about the combination of unrealistic color and light with the realistic depiction of empty American landscape that made me feel sad beyond description, the fullness and richness and vibrancy of life sucked out of me in an hour's time so that what was left is life without life, no reason to exist beyond sunlight on a building.

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