Long Weekend

Fabulous four day weekend begun by playing hookie on a rainy Friday with a visit to National Gallery with mon amour. We started off at the Snapshot Exhibit curated by National Gallerist Sarah Greenough, and which chronicles, funnily enough, the American snapshot from it’s inception in the early 1900’s to the 60’s via the collection of one Robert E. Jackson, a man of good taste and distinction. Jackson assembled his collection over the past decade from flea markets, art fairs and sales on eBay. Apparently they thought the time was ripe to launch such an exhibit because digital photography has changed the way we take and display pictures.

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Having been suitably inspired by the American snapshooter, we continue on to the piece de resistance: Edward Hopper, which due to our weekday arrival was not packed like sardines like on the weekends. Perhaps like me, many of you first became acquainted with the work of Hopper through knock-off paintings exhibited in those fine public galleries, the fast food restaurant dining area. I actually thought the original version of Nighthawks was the one with Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Bogie all gathered around some late night diner. Well, it was an errant youth, but I’ve since learned a thing or two, and one is Hopper did not paint celebrity. I adore his moody, lonely, hint of a narrative painting style and his lush jewel-toned, heading toward somber palette.

Edward Hopper at the National Gallery of Art

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

There’s something in this retrospective for everyone, dreamy landscapes in Maine, the city, you know which one, changing, as it began to build skyscrapers which would crowd out the brownstones, flappers in cool clothes (the gallery is very astutely marketing cloche hats with the exhibit). And there’s Hopper himself, an iconoclast, the best sort. Someone with early promise, who didn’t sell his first painting till he was in his forties, taciturn and true. He painted in his manner before it became in vogue, then remained centered during his the years of his adulation, and continued to make his best work in his sixties and seventies whilst holding on to his reputation despite the rise of non-representational superstars like De Kooning, and more famously, Pollock.

He said, ” If you could say it in words, there’d be no reason to paint.” So his work sort of bears that man of few words nature too, tho still waters run deep and all that. Viva Hopper!

Sunday brought friend and fellow Review Santa Fe alum, Simon Roberts into town for a visit. Simon took me back to the National Gallery and introduced me to the work of British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, who painted in the 1800’s and was having a huge survey of work occupying veritable football fields of gallery space. The work was great, monumental shipwrecks, and classical idylls, detailed pencil and watercolor paintings of classical architecture, as well as more impressionistic work done in his last years, work which greatly influenced Monet and the rest of the waterlily school.

Simon shares a studio with his doppelganger, Simon Norfolk, doppelganger only in the sense that it is with Norfolk that he is most often confused, by people such as myself, upon hearing his name when they first meet him. He tells me that Norfolk cites Turner as an influence on his work. I suspect this is a great technique with which to be taking seriously by Kathy Ryan as a fine artist. Building on tradition and taking it further and all that good stuff. My own work is sadly more influenced by after school television specials (Sara T. : Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic – anyone?).
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Simon is across the pond – dog and pony-ing it for his fantastic survey of Russia, Motherland – which was published by the savant Chris Boot, and is the inaugural show at the new Darren Ching/Deborah Klomp endeavor, KlompChing Gallery (not to be confused with kerching – the sound a cash register makes when tallying up all the prints flying off the walls – which is of course what we hope happens).

Well all has been sweetness and light, we were cheerily bundled into the car heading to the airport, when during a slight traffic jam on rock creek parkway Simon and I came to the stunning realization that I thought I was taking him to National Airport (20 minutes away) and the chappie had booked out of Dulles airport (40 minutes – 1 hr plus away). And this during rush hour. Well, this is when one shows the stuff they are made of and I’m happy to say that calm prevailed. Slight U-Turn on crowded parkway and a determined weaving in and out of traffic – Starsky and Hutch re-runs becoming useful here, and we had old Simon at the gate with six entire minutes to spare before the gate closed.

Good times!

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