I went to the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Grand Palais yesterday. It was refreshing to walk through an exhibition and not feel the need to find some intellectual meaning behind the paintings. Let me take a step back. The last exhibition I went to see was the Dali at Centre Pompidou. Granted that I cannot compare Dali and Hopper directly; one was a Surrealist painter, the other an impressionist-inspired Modernist. I can at least make some comparisons about the the emotions evoked by both.
|Summer evening, 1947|
Dali, in all his dream-like paintings; his eccentricity; his need to be different through whatever means ended up appearing comical in the latter years of his life. Walking through his exhibition, and listening to the commentary about his work was exhausting. The need to have an interpretation to images that at times could only be described as confusing overwhelmed me. At some point during Dali’s exhibition, I switched off the commentary. Maybe it is not just the Dali commentary that annoyed me – it is the general commentary that often goes with abstract or surrealist art. A square painted on canvas cannot just be a square painted on canvas. There has to be some deeper meaning to the use of its colour, its dimensions, and its perspective. It can be exhausting.
|People in the sun, 1960|
This is why Hopper’s exhibition yesterday was so enjoyable. He was known for depicting simple images of middle class America, adopting a realism that would make him the darling of America’s art world. His banal, non-contrived paintings showed his view of American ever-day life. He was always called upon, as artists often are, to comment on why he had had used a particular colour, or profile, or setting in some of his paintings. The simplicity of his responses seemed inadequate for the art world. He confounded many with his lack of detailed explanations of some deeper meaning to his paintings.
|Sun in an empty room, 1963|
Yet, even amongst these very simple paintings, there was more charm than I have found amongst more abstract, supposedly meaningful, paintings. It was great to walk out of an exhibition thinking, ‘that was lovely – I could see that again.’
The exhibition has been extended until Saturday 2nd, February at the Grand Palais.