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Nighthawks in the round
August 16, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

In conjunction with the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibit Hopper Drawing [NYT review], which the museum calls "the first major museum exhibition to focus on the drawings and creative process of Edward Hopper," the museum has constructed a temporary life-size window installation recreating Nighthawks in the Flatiron Building's Sprint-sponsored Prow Artspace. The Flatiron is believed to be one of the real-life inspirations for the iconic diner by Carter Foster, curator of drawing for the Whitney and organizer of the Hopper exhibition. [previously]
posted by orthicon halo (21 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought the diner used as inspiration was the wedge-shaped now-an-open-lot on Greenwich Ave?

Anyway, I call Meetup dibs.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on August 16, 2013


Huh, I never thought of Nighthawks as fine art. Its presentation is always so kitsch, like Norman Rockwell after he's had one too many and was stumbling out of an alley after an incident that will shame him when he sobers up.
posted by Nelson at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2013


It's certainly been kitschified by the media, something used as a visual shorthand for a type of time and place so often that's become meaningless, a visual Wilhelm scream. I sometimes wish I could delete certain decades of cultural cruft over art objects so I could see it as it was intended. The same reason I wish it was possible to see Psycho and not know whats going to happen.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 AM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well shit, today is Chelsea gallery art day, I may have to cruise by and Instagram this afterwards.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:05 AM on August 16, 2013


I sometimes wish I could delete certain decades of cultural cruft over art objects so I could see it as it was intended.

I often think something similar to this whenever an art-oriented FPP appears. There's so much of 20th century art that is utterly overwhelmed by the cultural angst and detritus that the pieces have accumulated. My suggestion in those posts is always "You have to view the art through the lens of the time in which it was created." Doing so makes usual-suspects like Duchamp, Warhol and Pollock far more understandable, and easier to appreciate why they became important.

I never thought Hopper was affected by this problem, though. Guess I was wrong.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2013


The generic quality of the people in his paintings has always felt off to me. People-less paintings like Early Sunday Morning seem more heartfelt. Especially after reading a biography of Hopper, I got the sense that he was kind of miserable, and miserable to be around.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:13 AM on August 16, 2013


I think if you see it in the context of lots of other works by Hopper (or, more simply, if you are familiar with other works by Hopper) then it loses that pop-cultural kitschiness pretty easily. Personally I find that true of most great works of art that have been taken up and made iconic in pop-cultural contexts; it's not actually that hard to slough that off and get back to the original power of the work so long as you're willing to do a little bit of work at contextualizing them.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I sometimes wish I could delete certain decades of cultural cruft over art objects so I could see it as it was intended.

It's often really helpful to look at lesser-known pieces by the same artist that don't have all of the associated Simpsons parodies and everything. If you look at Hopper's House by the Railroad or Gas Station the despair and loneliness starts to come across.
posted by theodolite at 9:16 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


For contrast - Robert Henri's portrait of Jo Hopper (Nivison) at 22.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2013


I'd seen the insipid Boulevard of Broken Dreams poster about a trillion times before I'd ever heard of Edward Hopper, so when I first saw Nighthawks I thought, "oh, I know that painting, it's called...wait, WHAT?!?" I felt stupid, and a little bit like I'd been cheated.

Then I saw a lot of other Hopper paintings, and I felt better.

I'm not completely against pop culture appropriating or poking fun at fine arts; at times, it's exposed me to new things I wouldn't otherwise have known about. But it always throws me for a loop when I discover that something I'd long considered original is in fact an allusion, remake, or parody. (Don't get me started on the time I discovered "Tarzan Boy" was an actual song and not just a Listerine jingle.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:43 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite version of Nighthawks will always be this one.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:43 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite version of Nighthawks will always be this one.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:09 AM on August 16, 2013


The generic quality of the people in his paintings has always felt off to me. People-less paintings like Early Sunday Morning seem more heartfelt.

I disagree. What gets to me about Nighthawks is this sense of loneliness.

It was a bit of a theme for Hopper. Hopper painted a lot of lonely women.
posted by vacapinta at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


For me, "Night Windows" evokes the feelings that "Nighthawks" would, if it was without the cultural cruft.
posted by bashos_frog at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2013


I always liked the live-action version of Nighthawks.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2013


It would be cooler if they were all shopping for Sprint phones instead of sitting at a diner.
posted by ericbop at 12:08 PM on August 16, 2013


Hopper painted a lot of lonely women.

Strangely, all those lonely women figures would have been modeled by his wife Jo, with whom he had a long, sometimes violent, marriage.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2013


This one.
posted by Dreidl at 7:49 PM on August 16, 2013


There's so much of 20th century art that is utterly overwhelmed by the cultural angst and detritus that the pieces have accumulated.

Indeed. I thought it was here, but maybe it was on my blog aeons ago that somebody commented, until the post, they had never realized the original version existed -- they only knew the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" kitsch version.

It's always been one of my favorite paintings (having lived in/near Chicago practically my entire life, though, I've had numerous opportunities to see it in person). I get the impulse to modify it, mash it up, and even outright parody it -- that's part of how we participate in art ourselves, channel and process its meaning for us. I'll always regret not knowing in advance about this living art version of Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte done nearby where I grew up and where I went to school.

But when the item itself becomes better known, it's pretty frustrating. You would hope that usually there's a trade-up involved, as when Shakespeare adapted now-long-since-forgotten plays into masterpieces that still speak eloquently to us centuries later. But the easy reproduction of digital material, even more than the popular culture spread of things like posters and t-shirts, means that something derivative can easily outstrip the mind-share that the original had before it existed. That's sort of what's happened here.
posted by dhartung at 1:15 AM on August 17, 2013


Reading these comments, it strikes me that I'm quite lucky. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and during my disaffected teenage years, where loneliness and isolation were constant companions, trips to the Art Institute of Chicago (where Nighthawks is usually) were some of my first excursions by myself.

In this way, Nighthawks always spoke to me about that isolation that I felt. No cultural cruft, no constant barrage of imitations and parodies. I always knew where it was, and like the many other great works housed at the Art Institute, they always feel like mine. Now that I'm older and live a thousand miles from Chicago, and find myself going to museums on travels elsewhere, whenever I find a traveling work from the Art Institute, it's like seeing an old friend. I think that is what Nighthawks might be about for me, personally. Those people might not know each other well, but I like to think they're all regulars, and the diner they're all seated at is the old friend they've come to visit that night.
posted by clockbound at 7:32 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's an especially interesting counter-narrative, clockbound.
posted by dhartung at 5:11 PM on August 17, 2013


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