Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I caught the Edward Hopper show at Columbia Museum of Art a week or so ago -- actually it's Hopper and a lot of other Ashcan realists.

I wrote a review a number of years of a book about realism, and I said in there that it was an "outworn style," which was probably wrong; I think I was reading a lot of Proust at the time. Realism by itself is not longer a total artistic crime in my opinion, even if it's not what I prefer, even if it's not, always, what I think of as artistic. One tends to prefer an artist representing his own view of what is before him rather than, say, a view shared by everyone -- that's really my objection when I think of the word realism; that it connotes populist, democratic, common denominator, "Sovietized" art. Some of the art in the show had that sense to it, but that wasn't the first thing that came to mind.

What came to mind was that you were getting some sense of a vanished time, of New York in the 1920s, mainly -- the Jazz Age, flappers, parties, poverty, fun; the highs and lows of life at the time. It was like opening a window on to the time. It kind of, in its way, made you grateful for basic representationalism, or whatever it's called. Does someone looking at an Abstract Expressionist painting have any sense of the time in which it was created? I suppose if they are art fanciers or students or experts they do, but that's about it.

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