(per leggere in italiano clicca qui)
Recently in Milan there was a big exhibition of works by E. Hopper (1882-1967) the most important American painter from the first half of 20th century.
Many people have pointed out how Hopper was influenced by the Metaphisycal poetry of De Chirico. In fact, some of his works are clearly a copy of masterpieces by the Italian painter.
What comes to mind when I look at his works is how 20th century (and later) painting unknowingly is divided between those who tried to fix the already still moment, and those who tried to capture movement.
For centuries art tried to capture the Image, so that Bacon considered this the purpose of painting. Reproducing (or creating) the Image, with a capital “I”, representative, iconographic, it alone, the Image.
Then came futurism, which had the aim of depicting movement, in itself, in all its caotic speed, as represented in some masterpieces by Balla and Boccioni.
Not that this division had a meaning in itself, in the thing produced, given that the first, let’s call it that, school of thought, by definition, included the second.
However it was produced and whatever was the subject portrayed, the final work the painting was the Image itself, with a capital “I”.
This division, however, existed and exists and it has a specific attitude to viewing and listening.
In the works of Hopper you slowdown, you stop, you are still in what is depicted and in the people portrayed, as well as in its contemplation. The works of Balla and Boccioni and even more of Pollock, Kline, Vedova move and remove, excite, attract and repulse.
Hopper’s painting fascinates for the unsaid, for the whispered, for the seen and unseen. Expressionism and action painting, when they are great, amaze for their complexity and intensity and the grand vision that they offer.
Both methods focus on the Image, the nucleus of what is seen, and what you wish others to see. Both methods work to take away, rather than to add, in eliminating cleaning what has been seen to leave what “should be seen”.
In painting there is always this willingness that emerges, that wants to be shown. In Hopper this is a humanity that has nothing to say and enjoys simply being? Couples that live together, but do not talk to each other (but only stare at each other)? Houses dried by the sun? In Pollock pure energy? Celestial music that fills the ears?