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« A Change of Taste | Main | A Civil War By Any Other Name... »

November 25, 2006


Kuspit will have done the ultimate disservice that a bad critic can do to his subject if his review squelches the interest of potential visitors to the Whitney Hopper exhibit, which is quite wonderful (I saw it while in NY last Friday).

In fact, one thing I like about the exhibit is precisely its "show don't tell" curating style. Several of Hopper's large oil paintings are paired with well selected examples of the many charcoal sketches he did in preparation for each work. The sketches allow a visitor to see the way in which the structural space was mapped first; how character sketches were developed separately; where a figure was sometimes added or subtracted to a scene as Hopper played around with different compositions.

The accompanying placards provide historical detail about Hopper's relationship to the different locales pictured, and what is known about his process of developing a particular work of art. They are actually wonderfully terse.

Similarly, the exhibit also includes a nice collection of Hopper's very early art-- the commercial illustration that he trained to do as a teenager, and paintings and sketches from his time in Paris as a young man-- together with some nicely chosen quotations from letters and journals, and some more fairly understated contextual commentary about the influence of this early development. An impressively comprehensive selection of work for a Hopper fan (of which I am one, as well), and interestingly organized.

As a side note, I find the cool light and empty spaces in Hopper's paintings peaceful rather than crushingly lonely.

The Whitney HR Department must be doing something right, because the other big show there right now, on the influence of Picasso on contemporary painters, is also impressively curated, again on the "show don't tell" principle: by placing paintings side by side, it persuasively argues the influence of Picasso's forms and techniques not just on the usual suspects, but on artists I never would have associated with him, like Jackson Pollack and Roy Lichtenstein. No really.

I wholeheartedly recommend both shows to anyone in or near NY these days.

Thanks Anna, for the eye witness report on Edward Hopper's art show. How I wish I could see the Whitney exhibit. I have seen isolated Hopper works but never a dedicated display of a large number of his paintings. I think the the largest number of Hopper in one room I saw may have been at Yale. Isn't that Room By The Sea owned by Yale?

I probably came down unnecessarily hard on the Kuspit review. He is just doing his job as a professor of philosophy and history of art. And like all scholars, he found a new angle to play around with for a scholarly exegesis. It doesn't have to mean anything to the lay admirers of Edward Hopper. I doubt that he will deter anyone from checking out the Whitney show.

I must say that like you, I too find in the empty spaces, lines, shadows and self contained aloof figures in Hopper's paintings a strange aura of relaxation. Not at all the melancholy as is commonly associated with them. Which is further proof that experts such as Kuspit, need not bother telling us what a painting "means."

As for your other comment on the Mughlai Chicken post, my husband (he more than I) and I are not especially celebratory ANY time of the year. I (not he) probably would have been more enthusiastic had we had more family around. Festive cooking is much more fun when several people participate. But we did, until a couple of years ago, meet for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. And I did cook the requisite food. But plane travel during Thanksgiving has turned so horrendous that both kids have given it a miss for the past two years. Unlike at Christmas, when one can stagger the travel dates a bit, ThxGiving pretty much makes a Wednesday arrival and Sunday departure mandatory. We don't do much for Christmas either, except eat and sleep. But my son's birthday on Christmas Eve gives us a "reason" for the season and gift giving. I myself find Christmas time very pretty. I enjoy and admire the festive decorations of my neighbors, the greeting cards and gift exchange, charitable giving and if I have time and energy, a Midnight Mass at a Catholic church. None of this is religious for me of course but I enjoy the activities.

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