Monday, March 28, 2005

New Book On Edward Hopper 

Avis Berman has written a new book to be released in April which shows how the painter Edward Hopper documented life in New York City through his work. The New York Times printed a story by her yesterday and here is an excerpt that I only partially agree with:

People become hardened by materialistic pressures, he concluded, and to survive,
they grow indifferent or estranged from one another. Hopper probed this idea in
his representations of white-collar workers inhabiting the drab, impersonal
offices in paintings like "Office at Night" and "Conference at Night," both done
in the 1940's. Even before he had established himself as a delineator of New
York places, the artist had already pinpointed a New York state of mind. That
state is not so much "loneliness," as the maudlin clich´┐Ż about him would have
it, but a tougher and more unsparing isolation that touches on the traps of
modern urban existence, one in which individuals must become inured to life's
insults and injuries.

I think the author has taken the easy way out by describing the isolation found in his paintings in such a depressing manner. Compare Ms. Berman's writing with that of the excellent review Laura Cumming wrote regarding last Summer's exhibition at the Tate Modern:

A great Hopper, in the paint, is all stillness, silence, solidity. Not the
stillness of Vermeer, of stopped yet reverberating time, but a stillness all of
his own: the hiatus, the lapse, the longueur, the moment between significant
moments.

If you go to the link for the article you will find a tremendous slide show featuring Hopper's scenes from New York. By the way, we saw 18 of his paintings on our trip last week.

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