New York’s Edward Hopper: Exploring the Artist’s Relationship to the City | Edward Huber

“Cities are really trusses, so [Edward] Hopper New York is definitely still here. You may need to look around, but I love that sense of discovery.”

Kim Konate, Curator of Graphics and Prints Stephen and Ann Ames at the Whitney Museum, has spent the past four years working on Hopper’s latest show for the museum. It’s the first Hopper Show at Whitney in a decade, since 2013 Hopper feethat focused on these graphics. That’s a long time, considering Whitney has the world’s largest collection of Hopper’s work.

The new show, Edward Hopper in New York, presents the famous American realist as a tried-and-true New Yorker – someone who has captured unique, overlooked aspects of his city while also finding ways to popularize them. Running through March 2023, a large show, with over 200 paintings, watercolors, prints and drawings, is the first-ever show focusing on Hopper’s life in the Big Apple.

Edward Hopper - Approaching the City, 1946
Edward Hopper approaches a town, 1946. Photo: The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; Acquired in 1947. © 2022 Josephine N. Heirs. Hopper / Licensed by the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Born in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York, Hopper moved to New York City in 1908 and spent most of his life there until his death in 1967. As a painter, he avoided statements like the world-famous New York skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in favor of more overlooked vistas that brought spaces Infinity of steel and concrete to the human level. This can be seen in works such as Approaching a City, which shows a scene familiar to countless New Yorkers: a stretch of commuter train before disappearing into a tunnel. “For many people, this underpass is their first encounter with the city,” Konate said. “There is that moment that he captures, that exciting, anxious and exciting moment before the unknown. It reminds me of my first trips to the city and all the butterflies, the palpable excitement.”

The exhibition stems from the painter’s long and storied relationship with Whitney, dating back to 1920, when the Whitney Studios Club hosted his first solo exhibition. Over the years, Hopper has remained a major present at Whitney, participating in 30 of the museum’s biennials and annuals, including the first in 1932. “When I think of Hopper at that first Biennale, I love the idea of ​​how he was,” Konate said.

The relationship between Hopper and Whitney gained new significance after Hopper’s death, when in 1970 his studio holdings came into the museum’s possession. “It was 3,000 works, which was doubling the entire Whitney collection at the time,” Konate said. “It’s always amazing to think about, how at that moment Hopper was half of Whitney’s group.”

Edward Hopper - Rufus, Washington Square, 1926.
Bishop of Washington Square from 1926. Photo: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Bequest from Mr. and Mrs. James H. Beal. © 2022 Josephine N. Heirs. Hopper / Licensed by the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Konate and her colleagues carefully excavated Whitney’s treasure chest while also making use of loaned works to get a look at Hopper that feels thoughtful and fresh. This large and diverse collection of paintings, drawings, illustrations, notebooks, and ephemera has been divided into various subsections, among which are the artist’s many cityscapes, views of Hopper’s neighborhood in Washington Square, and the countless drawings he made while wandering the city, distilling late works. By arranging things in this way, Konate’s goals are for the audience to find their way through the exhibition, forming their own connections and conclusions.

“We thought a lot about the gallery design for the gallery, a lot about the subject matter,” Konate said. “We wanted to simulate that exploratory experience of moving around the city on your own. The open floor plan allows us to emphasize how much Hopper returns to the same themes and motifs. We’re really hanging on by theme. and feeling, and I think that created a really different viewing experience.”

The show traces the roots of Hopper’s art in New York to illustrations and engravings, where he first made his mark and where he sharpened an eye that later turned to painting portraits of the city. This also indicates Hopper’s enduring fascination with windows and theatrical scenes, as he compiled numerous paintings around each of these decorations to powerful and stimulating effect. As a pedestrian and as a resident, where the public and the private blend together because we all live close to each other.”

Edward Hopper, The Manhattan Bridge Ring, 1928
The Manhattan Bridge Ring, from 1928. Photo: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. © 2022 Josephine N. Heirs. Hopper / Licensed by the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy of Art Resource, NY

The show includes many of Hopper’s late works, which are collected here under the “Reality and Fiction” category. These works show reclusive characters looking away, conveying a sense of reclusive longing, while seemingly taking place in an unknown setting anywhere. “Hopper is often described as the quintessential American realist, and I don’t mean to underestimate that he gives us the essence of the city,” said Konate, “but in these later works he really does much more than his imagination and the collective imagination. He is able to step back and distill and distill and distill and give us a symbolic angle that could be New York or it could be any city.”

The show manages to reveal a different side of Hopper, eschewing many of the artist’s most famous paintings in favor of paintings that cultivate a sense of him as a New Yorker and art innovator. In addition to helping audiences see an artist who has long been a staple of the American imagination, it’s also a show that will give tourists and old New Yorkers plenty of reason to freshen their eyes and rediscover the city they thought they knew.

“I like to imagine that when we New Yorkers see an artist thinking about a city we know so well, it can remind you to see your own New York,” Konate said. “It can make you go out onto the city streets and feel curious about your own New York, to be fascinated by a corner you’ve been through so many times and never noticed.”

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