Edward Hopper and His Times at the Whitney Museum

The Whitney digs into its vast Edward Hopper art holdings–and adds a few fresh pieces on loan–for this minor-feeling exhibition. Hopper fanatics won't want to miss it, but with several other great museum shows currently in town, is it worth the trip for the casual appreciator?

Edward Hopper painting of guests at a party with a clown in white smoking a cigarette and a pale woman with rosy cheeks in the background

Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Times, a floor-wide exhibition at the Whitney Museum in NYC, somehow feels slighter than it should. After all, the show includes some 32 Edward Hopper paintings and "works on paper", including several bona-fide masterpieces, bulked up with nearly 40 works from his American realism contemporaries, both painters and photographers, such as Charles Demuth, Alfred Steiglitz, George Bellows, and Paul Strand. If this sort of style hits your sweet spot, or if nostalgia for you means the 1930s, then you're bound to find much to enjoy on the Whitney Museum's third floor. If it all seems a tad ho-hum, there will likely be no revelatory piece in the exhibition to change your mind.  

A young woman in a collared dress sitting at a table with pencils and notebook

Don't get us wrong, there's some pretty brilliant work here. For example, we never get tired of staring at the colorful, vaguely disconcerting cast of characters in Edward Hopper's Soir Blue, pictured at top. In his Barber Shop painting, above, on loan for the exhibition from Westchester's Neuberger Museum, Hopper makes such beautiful use of that severe shaft of sunlight you can almost feel the warmth. And Edward Hopper's painting Early Sunday Morning, below, practically defines sleepiness, though with a odd sense of anticipation for the hours, the day, the life, ahead. 

Edward Hopper painting of store fronts in reds and greens with a barber shop red, white, and blue, stand outside


Paul Strand photograph at the Whitney Museum in NYC of men and women in black walking in front of a cement building

We liked the photography that accompanies the Hopper, especially, perhaps, the monumental shot of Wall Street by Paul Strand, above, but we couldn't shake the feeling that most of the non- Edward Hopper paintings suffered in comparison. In fact, we would have much preferred an all-Hopper retrospective… but then, the Whitney just did that, and only four years ago. In the end, our favorite thing we saw that day at the Whitney Museum in NYC was on the fifth floor, the wonderfully raw (so to speak) and slightly unsettling collection of Meat Pieces (see Untitled Meat Piece With Flies below) that take up a good portion of the Paul Thek show and are definitely worth seeing as a whole, as the cumulative effect packs a powerful punch, rather than, when seen individually, just looking kind of gross.  

Meat artwork at the Whitney Museum in NYC inside a brillo box

Edward Hopper and His Times at the Whitney Museum Details 

Edward Hopper and His Times will be on display at the Whitney Museum in NYC from now through April 10, 2011. The Paul Thek exhibitition, by the way, closes on January 9, so get there over the break to see Meat Pieces. The Whitney is located on Madison Avenue between 75th and 74th Streets and is open on Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and until 9:00 p.m. on Fridays. Note that admission is "pay-what-you-wish" every Friday from 6:00 p.m. until closing. For more information and  images visit the Whitney Museum website.    


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