Friday, August 03, 2007

Stephen Hicks Is Wrong About Art 

I like Stephen Hicks. I lectured at one of his classes at Rockford College a few years ago and to thank me he gave he a signed copy of "Postmodernism" and took me out for a great meal. Over dinner we discussed my theory of art because he said he was working on a book on the subject. I had thought that we shared the same views. Until today.

This morning I read his essay "Post-Postmodern Art" and while I agree with much of what he says the author lumps Edward Hopper in with those artists who turned from representing reality to painting abstractionist garbage. His comment on the artist is that "[Postmodern Art] is Edward Hopper's emotionally out-of-tune men and women in bland, worn settings."

He could not be more wrong. If he had read about the artist he would know that Hopper had strong disagreements with the modern art world and saw himself as leading the charge against it. He even attended artists protest groups who according to to his wife "banded together to preserve [the] existence of realism in art against the wholesale usurpation of the abstract by Mod. Mus., Whitney . . ." (Edward Hopper An Intimate Biography, 1996, p. 457).

In defining Post-Postmodern Art Mr. Hicks writes, "The result is an object that, at its best, has an awesome power to exalt the senses, the intellects, and the passions of those who experience it." Well this is exactly what I describe happens when people appreciate Edward Hopper. Here is a portion of my essay "Management and Art" which shows the connection between the artist and what Mr. Hicks is describing.

The . . . painting, “Early Sunday Morning” was completed in 1930, and is located at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. It depicts a scene of a deserted street with all of the stores closed. The absence of people and activity leads to a feeling of loneliness and alienation. We feel as if we are intruding, that somehow it is wrong to be looking at this street at all.

But then, as I have witnessed museum visitors do time and time again, we take a closer look at the painting. We notice details that are extremely similar to other city streets we have seen, like the barbershop poll and the building's apartments on the second floor. Our mind begins to wonder about who lives above the shops and what the street looks like when people have gathered to conduct business. The bright colors Hopper has included inject optimism into our original dismal frame of reference.

It is this contrasting impact of Hopper's art, this initial feeling of being pushed away and then being drawn back, that people describe as the power of his art. As admirers experience these emotions they often begin to question why they are driven to behave this way towards an inanimate object. They study the canvas for clues to their reactions. It is when viewers are undergoing this complex process that they begin to think about their own lives in relation to their current thoughts.

I am of course describing the practice of the act of contemplation. It is contemplation that we commonly rely upon as human beings to settle our internal conflicts. It is contemplation that allows us to reach a peace of mind.

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