If you’re in New York this weekend, run don’t walk to the expansive and breath-taking art exhibit Edward Hopper’s New York at the Whitney Museum. New York was Hopper’s muse, second only to his wife Josephine “Jo” Nivison Hopper who was also a talented and accomplished painter. (Some of her works are featured in the exhibit as well and they’re stunning.) We see Automat, which reminds me of my heady early adult days in New York when I was scraping by working in Broadway theaters, as well as Early Sunday Morning, Room in New York, Bridle Path, Two Comedians, Drug Store, Tables for Ladies, New York Interior, From Williamsburg Bridge, Approaching the City, Sunlight on Brownstones, New York Pavements, Boy and the Moon, and the exhibit goes on and on with one gorgeous work after the next.
We also find his illustrations, which I never knew he did, and an extensive set of his theater stubs that he saved. He and Nivison Hopper were massive theater fans and often went there to sketch not the show, but the audience and staff. Hopper was obsessed with depicting the lives of everyday people in ordinary and intimate moments of their lives. This entire exhibit is a celebration of not just New York, but New Yorkers. We could be, and perhaps have been, many of the people in these works. They feel familiar to us because they are. In our city, we have all lived these moments in the course of our average days.
What Hopper helps us realize is the extraordinary in our ordinary. In his work, we find the sliver of light through the window of our small apartment, the summer sunshine and shadows in Central Park, the very first moments of our mornings when we are still between sleeping and waking, the views from our trains and ferries as we rush to our next appointment, that burnt orange hat or sky blue dress that we love to wear, and that moment when we round the corner and spot our friends seated around the bar at our third home where everyone knows our name.
The one sadness I felt is that his most famous work, Nighthawks, is not there. I asked a guard where that painting is, and was told, “It’s at The Art Institute of Chicago and they weren’t giving it up. But, the sketches of it are in the side room.” My dear friend, Vicki, who prompted me to catch this exhibit with her before it closes on March 5th, and I hustled over to that side room and it was filled with Hopper’s sketches of many of his best known works. We found them equally fascinating as the final pieces because they show his meticulous, studious process of perspective and the clarity of vision via the clean lines with which he’s synonymous.
To enhance the exhibit even further, don’t miss the views of New York from the Whitney roof. Though it was freezing, Vicki and I ventured out there to see the sculptures and the views of New York that still look so much like the views Hopper saw. “Christa, we live here,” Vicki said to me. “We get to live here.” My heart was filled with gratitude for this city, this time with my dear friend, and for Hopper and Nivison Hopper whose visionary works endure.