I read the following brief piece in the current issue of The New Yorker and was struck by question, “Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void?’
In the Dystopian era of a Pandemic, America in dissaray and Trump in mental free fall it’s a good question.
The New Yorker 8.3-10.2020 Peter Schjeldahl
I haven’t seen this large show at the Beyeler Foundation, Switzerland’s premier museum of modern art.
I take its fine catalogue, “Edward Hopper: A Fresh Look at Landscape,” edited by the exhibition’s curator, Ulf Küster, as occasion enough for reflecting anew on the artist’s stubborn force. (A selection of Hopper’s paintings is also on view on the museum’s Web site.)
The visual bard of American solitude—not loneliness, a maudlin projection—speaks to our isolated states these days with fortuitous poignance. But Hopper is always doing that, pandemic or no pandemic. Aloneness is his great theme, symbolizing America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly a nation. (“E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land.)
The emotional tug of all of Hopper’s characters requires their unawareness of being looked at. To see them is to take on a peculiar responsibility.
Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void? Hopper shows how, exploring a condition in which, by being separate, we belong together.
You don’t have to like the idea, but, once you’ve truly experienced this painter’s art, it is as impossible to ignore as a stone in your shoe.