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Friday, November 23, 2007

Thing 86: The National Gallery, East Wing

It is way too soon after the feast to write a food related post, so Matchbox will have to wait until tomorrow. Instead, I am going to lay on the couch with this pot belly of mine, and ANTM on in the background, and tell you all about the really great Hopper exhibition at the East Wing of the National Gallery.

Edward Hopper at the National Gallery
You haven't seen it yet? You must! A complete and all-encompassing retrospective of his very prolific career, this exhibition follows Hopper from his early etchings, through his watercolors in Glocester, Mass, his oils of lighthouses in Maine, and of course his most famous scenes of New York City. I didn't know much about Hopper going in -- his "Nighthawks" piece, sure, but not much else -- but I must say that after the exhibit, I have a huge appreciation for Hopper and his work.

He was a master of light and shadow. He understood the power of natural light and was able to really beautifully capture the purple shadows in unlikely ways. He also tended to paint unexpected subjects. For example, he painted a whole series of pictures of lighthouses in Maine, but rarely do we see what might be expected at a lighthouse. Namely, the sea. Instead, we see the lighthouse against the hills, the hills with a corner of the lighthouse, the base of the lighthouse with some bushes and trees creating shadows.

Likewise, his famous scenes of people in New York City. He captures unassuming moments, scenes between people or through windows that don't seem noteworthy at all, but instill a sense of isolation or longing in the viewer. In Hopper's world, the theater-goers are more interesting than the movie and each apartment window hides complex lives and ambiguous stories.

There's a brief documentary at the end of the exhibit, a short 15 minute film about Hopper and his work, narrated by Steve Martin. It provides a good narrative and perspective on the paintings you've just seen, and helps to put them into historical perspective. One of the artists interviewed in the film says "I've never met anyone who didn't like Hopper. His works appeal to everyone." I think he may be right, and I urge all of you to see the exhibit before it leaves in January.

Liechtenstein at the National Gallery
We also checked out the bottom floor of the East Wing (and not just the gelato stand), enjoying the Liechtensteins, Warhols and Calders. Yes, there are blank white canvasses and cans of Campbell's soup cans and some weird stuff going on, but it's some of the best weird stuff you can find. And walking around the gallery might help burn off some of those turkey and cheesecake calories.

East Wing at the National Gallery


ScottE. said...

I really loved this exhibit! I look forward to seeing it a second time, probably over the Holiday break from work. And really make a day of it.

Jessica said...

I'm actually already planning on taking my mom to this tomorrow so thanks for the preview. Oh, and I hate those 12 blank canvases. Silliness. Recommend anywhere to grab a bite nearby? Preferably not too pricey...

dc365 said...

Scotte - yes yes! and you can go ice skating in the garden afterwards!

Jess - I will post about Matchbox today, which is where my cousin and I ate before the museum.

cjmr said...

We were at the Hopper Exhibit the same day you were! Just after lunch, too. I thought it was great--my four year old daughter, not so much.

Small world.

(working my way down the nablopomo blogroll)

dc365 said...

CJMR - WOW you are brave for working your way through the blogroll. Anything good so far?

Jess said...

Another art item to check out - the National Portrait Gallery has a new enclosed courtyard and it's one of the coolest things I've seen. (Thanks to the architect brother that insisted we go see it!) Since it's open late (at least by Smithsonian standards - 7 pm) it's a cool place to stop by after work as it has special lights and more.

cjmr said...

Anything good so far?

Well, I found someone who'd been to the National Gallery the same day as me...

And I think I may have found someone I went to high school with.

dc365 said...

Jess - I will definitely check that out! Five more days of squeezing things probably checking it out this week!

CJMR - I am flattered that you include me in the 'anything good' category!