TIO NYC: Whitney Museum, Hopper & Lizards, Two Views of New York!

TIO NYC: Whitney Museum, Hopper & Lizards, Two Views of New York!

Edward Hopper, (1882–1967) was the Top Gun among the realists of 20th-century America, whose alchemy transformed the ordinary into visual poetry with a focus on his muse: New York City. Meriem Bennani and Orian Barki’s eight-part film “2 Lizards” was acquired by the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art in 2021. The eight-part video series represents a whole other view of the city, a place under siege from a pandemic.

The latest Hopper exhibition at the Whitney, up through March 5, 2023, showcases more than 200 images that highlight a key connection between the man and his beloved city. Kim Conaty, curator of drawings and prints, spent the past four years working on the show. It is the Whitney’s first Hopper exhibition in a decade, since 2013’s Hopper Drawing – and a doozy.

According to the museum:

‘For Edward Hopper, New York was a city that existed in the mind as well as on the map, a place that took shape through lived experience, memory, and the collective imagination. It was, he reflected late in life, “the American city that I know best and like most.”

“The city of New York was Hopper’s home for nearly six decades (1908–67), a period that spans his entire mature career. Hopper’s New York was not an exacting portrait of the twentieth-century metropolis. During his lifetime, the city underwent tremendous development—skyscrapers reached record-breaking heights, construction sites roared across the five boroughs, and an increasingly diverse population boomed—yet his depictions of New York remained human-scale and largely unpopulated. Eschewing the city’s iconic skyline and picturesque landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building, Hopper instead turned his attention to its unsung utilitarian structures and out-of-the-way corners, drawn to the awkward collisions of new and old, civic and residential, public and private that captured the paradoxes of the changing city. Edward Hopper’s New York charts the artist’s enduring fascination with the city, revealing a vision of New York that is as much a manifestation of Hopper himself as it is a record of the city around him.

“Edward Hopper’s New York takes a comprehensive look at Hopper’s life and work, from his early impressions of New York in sketches, prints, and illustrations, to his late paintings, in which the city served as a backdrop for his evocative distillations of urban experience. Drawing from the Whitney’s extensive holdings and amplified by key loans, the exhibition brings together many of Hopper’s iconic city pictures as well as several lesser-known yet critically important examples. The presentation is significantly informed by a variety of materials from the Museum’s recently acquired Sanborn Hopper Archive—printed ephemera, correspondence, photographs, and journals that together inspire new insights into Hopper’s life in the city. By exploring the artist’s work through the lens of New York, the exhibition offers a fresh take on this formidable figure and considers the city itself as a lead actor.

Among the things we learned:

Hopper loved New York, but he was allergic to verticality and never painted the city’s skyscrapers. There was a persistent tension in compositions like Early Sunday Morning (1930) between the artist’s celebrating the city’s past, while embracing the emerging modern.

Hopper avoided conventional landmarks and “postcard’ New York sites, preferring structures like the Manhattan Bridge, built in 1901. There are numerous depictions of that and other lesser known bridges in the show.

On the other hand, Hopper loved his home turf, Washington Square Park, which has a dedicated room and plays something of a starring role in the exhibition overall.

Hopper and his wife Josephine or Jo, also a darn good artist (there are examples of her work) and the model for nearly all of her husband’s women, lived and worked there at at No. 3 Washington Square North. Included are the couple’s own depictions of the surrounding area, such as the Judson Memorial Church, and photographic portraits of the artists.

Hopper and Jo were activists. Letters to Robert Moses reflect his concern about the destruction of his home in the face of gentrification.

According to the wall label text: “The Hoppers witnessed the incessant cycles of demolition and construction as 19th-century buildings like their own were torn down to make way for new structures. During their many decades in Greenwich Village they advocated for the preservation of the neighborhood as a haven for artists and as one of the city’s cultural landmarks.”

The Hoppers were theatre buffs. Included in that thematic section is a large collection of ticket stubs on which Hopper meticulously recorded each production they attended.

Hopper’s images of New York blend fantasy with reality. Many of his paintings depict discernible New York venues, but others show facades and structures that are more “composites” of places and things, such as Drug Story (1927), which has a name, but no known address.

Hopper once described his art as capturing states of “moving on”— going from one place to another. That said, we recommend staying put and relishing the banquet of Hopper images that populate this blockbuster.

Go here for The Guardian‘s full review of the show.

Like Hopper Bennani  and Barki’s “2 Lizards” love the city – but their version of New York is beset by Covid.

The film  on display off the first floor lobby follows all too familiar Age-of-Corona rituals: Zoom parties, breaking news announcements, viral sex encounters and rooftop concerts. Those and other events fill two Brooklynite lizards’ slow-paced pandemic routines.

Supporting characters in this all-too-real fantasy include an anchorwoman mouse, an online dancer (who is a tiger) and a musician horse who lives next door.

“2 Lizards” is the love child of humor and social commentary and a must-see.

Check out Episode 1:

On the 8th floor of the museum is a show titled “At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism’ 9up through february 26, 2023). The exhibition showcases art produced between 1900 and 1930 by well-known American modernists and their now largely forgotten, but equally groundbreaking peers.

“…Drawn primarily from the Whitney’s permanent collection, it provides new perspectives on the myriad ways American artists used nonrepresentational styles developed in Europe to express their subjective responses to the realities of the modern age,” explains The Whitney.

And please note: a number of images from the museum’s collection were created by women and people of color which, until now, had been warehoused. The Whitney is open about that fact and righting that wrong with this engaging show.

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