hopper: ironically abstract


There’s been much talk about the moody silences of Hopper’s spaces and the oddly disturbed figures around or in them — they seem to be living the lives of quiet desperation that Thoreau spoke of. But I suggest that the people are distractions from Hopper’s real concern: buildings. They abound in Hopper’s works, often dwarfing the figures into insignificance — Night Shadows (1921) is a characteristic example — or using them as foils to offset structure and space. Buildings are man-made constructions of geometrical space, and as such inherently abstract and autonomous. They have a charismatic quality of their own, independently of the people who use them. Hopper is a kind of Cubist, treating buildings as abstract structures with a life of their own, and often more uncannily alive than the people who use them.

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