Wednesday, July 22, 2009

edward hopper b june 22 1882

Hopper's people, strand writes, whether glimpsed in hotel rooms, diners, storefronts or gas stations, "seem to have nothing to do. They are like characters whose parts have deserted them and now, trapped in the space of their waiting, must keep themselves company with no clear place to go, no future."

Strand calls Sun in an Empty Room (1963) "a vision of the world without us; not merely a place that excludes us, but a place emptied of us."

“I often feel that the scenes in Edward Hopper paintings are scenes from my own past. It may be because I was a child in the 1940s and the world I saw was pretty much the one I see when I look at Hoppers today. It may be because the adult world that surrounded me seemed as remote as the one that flourishes in his work. The clothes, the houses, the streets and storefronts are the same. When I was a child what I saw of the world beyond my immediate neighborhood I saw from the backseat of my parents’ car. It was a world glimpsed in passing. It was still. It had its own life and did not know or care that I happened by at a particular time. Like the world of Hopper’s paintings, it did not return my gaze.” mark strand

i had the luck of just walking into the whitney's first major retro of hopper's work back in 1980 when i was visiting my new college roommate. hopper, like pollock, really gains a lot from first hand viewing. it's all about space in hopper & how the light works in the space prescribed. obviously, he was deeply influenced by vermeer.

there's the voyeur thing too. the figures, solitary or not, seem enveloped by their solitude & unaffected by our viewing. there is no sharing here, no complicit connection that lifts them out of their loneliness. they will continue this mundane existence for the duration, kind of like the rest of us. light here doesn't work to save them or provide them w/revelation; it simply exposes them to the viewers gaze. i think only duchamp, in his last work, etant donnes, exposed the implicit voyeurism of the viewer more.

one of my favorite poets, mark strand, wrote a small book on hopper. the quotes above are from it & the poem below is from his wondrous poetic sequence, dark harbor.


What light is this that says the air is golden,
That even the green trees can be saved
For a moment and look bejeweled,

That my hand, as I lift it over the shade
Of my body, becomes a flame pointing the way
To a world from which no one returns, yet towards

Which everyone travels? The sheen of the possible
Is adjusting itself to a change of venue: the look
Of farewell, the sun dipping under the clouds,

Faltering at the serrated edge of the mountains,
Then going quickly. And the new place, the night,
Spacious, empty, a tomb of lights, turning away,

And going under, becoming what no one remembers.

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