Monday, June 30, 2008
What to do in NY this summer? Suggestion from the Village Voice...
Best in Show
Edward Hopper, Lonely Guy
Etchings from this Yankee existentialist come to Craig F. Starr
by R.C. Baker
June 24th, 2008 12:00 AM
Edward Hopper conveyed the disjointed loneliness of modernity more acutely than any other American artist (or novelist or filmmaker) of his time. In these 13 etchings from 1918 to 1923, a number of which have become icons of Yankee existentialism, individuals are surrounded by shadowy force fields that turn viewer into voyeur. These are not portraits of people presenting themselves to us, but glimpsed scenes of enigmatic characters: a woman in a slip sits at a sewing machine, her thoughts somewhere far beyond the open window she faces; a nude woman, hair obscuring her face, climbs into bed while gazing out between fluttering curtains. In 1921's House Tops, a lass on an elevated train stares wistfully at the metropolis of chimneys, roof hatches, and cornices passing by—the viewer is across the car, noticing, perhaps, that something other than the sights is on the girl's mind. In Night Shadows, a famous, vertiginous view of a man walking a darkened city street, the broad sidewalk is bisected by the stark shadow of a lamppost that stands outside the frame. All the powerful abstract geometries of Hopper's later masterpieces are foreshadowed in these small works—the sweeping curves and sharp triangles of his boating scenes, a processional of telegraph poles contrasted against sinuous train tracks. But unlike those magnificent paintings, in which people often act as mere vessels of light and shade, here they are supple human beings. In Night on the El Train (1918), a man and woman huddled in the corner of an otherwise empty car are literally twisted in knots—heads bent toward each other, ankles tightly crossed, her body uncomfortably torqued. Are they planning a wedding or plotting a murder? Perhaps both, though not necessarily in that order