Wow! This has really been a hell of a break! Reckon I needed it, in order to disconnect from real world, and put things in order a bit, especially setting some strategies to get a job as soon as August is finished, as if I was getting back to school.
I can’t really tell how many times I’ve been to Madrid, 10-15? I don’t know, the truth is that I’ve never behaved as a proper tourist visiting monuments and that kind of stuff. My short visits to the big city have consisted on going out for tapas, attending gigs and getting booze in Malasaña, meeting friends on the way, of course.
I wanted to do something different for a change, and in order to enjoy this getaway in the lowest cost style, I was looking for cheap plans. On one hand, my sis Agnès asked me to take some pictures of her wearing different outfits for her blog. Also we scheduled a visit to the temporary exhibition of Edward Hopper’s paintings at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum on Friday.
You know I’m more into photography as a way to reflect reality, and love its most extreme views. Sometimes I find difficult to comprehend the meaning of many paintings and there are waves or tendencies I simply don’t connect with.
Nevertheless, I’ve always felt attracted to Hopper’s work, for its reality, its immediacy, the captures of the daily routines, the representation of the society habits … quite close to pictures.
Things have changed much since the times I used to go to Museums with my teachers. There was a rule never to be contradicted under penalty or punishment, and that rule was Silence. Well, last Friday the museum was close to an open air market. Kids running, posh ladies speaking on the phone, and people just commenting out loud just to show their knowledge about Hopper and art in general. Agnès was getting terribly upset and I decided to take it easy and enjoy the contents of the exhibition, otherwise I’d be isolated by my headphones listening to some inspiring music. This is the way I’m visiting museums, on my own, and with my personal soundtrack.
With the experience abroad and the attempt to get kids close to art and other fields such as science, technology and history, it’s true museums have become more interactive, and I support that, but can anyone tell me what a 6-year old kid has to do at Hopper’s exhibition but getting bored and make noise? And what’s even worse, why didn’t the parents take any actions to quiet them down? Dear parents, it’ll be too late the day you realize about your wrong educative methods. It’s a direct link between cause and consequence, thus misbehavior and bad manners among adults are likely to be transmitted and inherited by the following generations, thus, don’t complain the day you realize your children are assholes. You are the principle responsible for creating little unbearable monsters.
Once my outburst has lowered and eventually vanished, and avoiding an attempt of exert my art criticism and analysis skills, I’d just like to share with you my positive impressions regarding the exhibition and Hopper’s work in general.
Many of his most remarkable paintings were missing, but still there was a generous bunch of enjoyable material at the ground floor of the museum.
There were a couple of remarkable aspects that immediately caught my eye, related to his earliest work.
On one hand, the series of covers he delivered for The Morse Dry Dock Dial, an in-house publication for NY employees at the Dry Dock and Repair Company. Very industrial and rough, it’s still interesting to observe this commercial point of view from the artist.
On the other, not only he produced pieces painting oil on canvas, which in fact he perfections later, but also watercolours on paper and etching on wove paper.
The Lonely House, East Side Interior, Evening Wind, Night Shadows…dated between 1918 and 1923. Acquainted with the the artist’s background, and the major work he produced, the etchings were the confirmation of Hopper’s trademark. He starts using the light in a dramatic way, as to transmit certain emotions which had to to with isolation, loneliness, mystery…
The collection also featured some pieces belonging to other painters, such as Walter Sickert, Degas, or George Bellows, sharing the same style, and in some cases the visions of North America in those times.
Nevertheless Hopper has a preference for scenes including very few people, as to reflect this isolation and loneliness I was talking about. Two on the Aisle, or First Row Orchestra, would be good examples of large settings almost empty.
Characters in his paintings could be defined as grotesque somehow. They are sinister, their faces angular, and in most cases, the eye sockets are just black, empty, depriving them of expression, aimless.
Hopper had a taste for American Landscapes. Lighthouses, prairies, gas stations in the middle of nowhere, sea sights… but also the city. He was great defining NY corners and grey walls, providing them with a sense of alienation. You can see one of his paintings and be able to identify the city of New York. And those uncommon threatening places everybody tries to ignore, such as cargo platform train stations, so real many people wondered why he wanted to record them.
In many cases, the scenes reflected in his paintings are so transitory, Agnès and I were discussing about Hopper’s techniques. Did he painted by heart? Did he take pictures with a camera first? His captures very often seem shots, for their reality and immediacy. For landscaping, not involving movement, that wouldn’t be a problem, and in fact, that kind of painting is very accurate, but what when it involves people in motion? Some of them had to be images coming from his mind, having the setting frozen, and developing his self-creations , he’d easily manage to put them together in an harmonious way. But when you stand in front of paintings such as Apartment Houses you can’t help but wondering…and I can only think of Hopper as a master recovering daily routines.
The lighting is fascinating. The important role of the windows for indoors scenes is outstanding, for both day or night. I must admit night captures are definitely more intense and I prefer them.
It’s curious that, regardless of urban or country settings, characters in their paintings are extremely static, even though sometimes are depicted as if chatting. Hopper’s subjects are the reflection of frustration, isolation and boredom once again. Couples seem unhappy and distant, and everybody seems to be diving deep into their own worlds and thoughts.
There are so many aspects that come to my mind again as if brainstorming regarding Hopper and his paintings, I could be writing here for hours, thinking of the endless details he was able to catch. It’d be for the best you could visit any of his temporary exhibitions if it was possible, to enjoy an overwhelming experience of emotions and feelings hard to describe. It’s true you can observe and analyze the paintings via internet or just purchasing a book with his most outstanding works compiled, but at the end of the day, it’s the direct impression, the impact of an image in front of your eyes, what really counts.