A trip to Roma is better. . .The Connecting

Some days when Tom Jobim is playing in my head, I think about all the missed connections in life. I think about plane rides where people could have gotten to know each other, but were lost in self-distraction by movies or their ipods. The world wide web has lots of them, and dozens sit on blogs like this. There are tons of interesting bits, immersed in YouTube or myspace, for the asking but remaining invisible.  And facebook has lots of chatter, but very little real speaking. An eeriness sets in, and a kind of loneliness, the likes of which Arbus sadly captured in her final photos of the mentally challenged. Ghosts sometimes provide moments of sunshine like Elis Regina and Tom Jobim with Àguas de Março.

People spend their lives connecting, or trying to.  like the heartbreaking cries  of the five year old, who bursts out, “. . .they do not want to be my friend!”  And dozens of movies have made this one, well, like a national anthem. Sometimes, the person you thought was the dumbest one in the movie, turns out to be the only one that could put the connecting together (i.e.-Danny Aiello, Moonstruck). People spend a lot of time on cell phones when they leave work. I think that is so funny, they don’t bother with anyone, but they leave the job and grab the phone like all-get-out. I noticed that in Italy, cell phones were a lot less nutso, as they were in 2000, where the gondolier in Venice, steered with one hand and spoke with the other, in that funny get-up.

I never talk subject matter in adjectives, but Hopper tends to have less connecting going on his work, than any other painter. Funny, two big artist shows in Rome, the big one  Caravaggio, and the other being Hopper. The first night I was in Rome, going over to the Piazza Navona, I caught sight of the show on via del Corso. So cool to see the scrubbed down Hopper posters against rusticated stone architecture.

The show itself was wonderful, much of it looked as if Hopper’s wife had left all of his preliminary drawings to the Whitney. So you can stand and see a painting that is say, out of Youngstown, Ohio, and see the beautiful preliminary sketches, almost as large as the painting. You begin to get a better sense of that architectonic thing that Hopper is so famous for. The only drawback is that so little of the heavy duty work of Hopper is there. A wonderful 3D set (the only thing they allowed to be photographed) sat at the beginning of the show, but Nighthawks was nowhere to be seen. I thought, geez, if the Modern could have given up Starry Night to be in the van Gogh show in Amsterdam, why couldn’t Chicago have given up Nighthawks for a few months for this show?

3D set of Nighthawks in Rome

I am so sick of museums and all this copyright caca. And other places like churches for that matter. The guards must have taken leave of their senses in the Capella Sistina, as hilariously, idiot American tourists with baby Nikons were trying to photograph Michelangelo’s ceilings avec flash, while Japanese weasels with Sony camcorders were pretty much doing the same. It didn’t last long. You think for the lousy 15 Euros the Vatican charges, they could have afforded imposing guards who could have stopped this nonsense. Overall the Vatican is wonderful and you can, with the exception of the chapel, photograph anything! So why did the Scuderie in Rome, not let you photograph Carravagio’s Entombment, when the Vatican does?

Euro has gotten ridiculous with the no-photo-but-we’ll-sell-ya-the-postcard. Funny part is, if you have been to the DC National Gallery, they are letting you use flash. The new thinking being, flash once involved lightbulbs and they used to explode upon shooting sometimes misfiring and sending glass shards flying. Several books I have read, advise owners of oil paintings to take painting outside for a while to brighten colors through layers of varnish. The other lunacy is no flash for bronzes and marbles! The only museum who said, flash okay, was the wonderful Rodin Museum in Philly.

Anyway, to get back to connections, rather than name-dropping. There is something interestingly disconnected about Hopper figures in space. Some painters are not very adept at figure painting, and it shows, but it is beyond that. Hopper has that all-get-out loneliness. Look at Nighthawks and the interrelationship of the figures, even the girl to the man next to her. Compare the effect of the figures to those of say, Cezanne’s Card Players. It is not only the scale, but the way the figures interact to the space. Cezanne’s literally eat up the space around them–backs, hands, hats–define and take over. Even Piero della Francesa or Perugino figures seem to wind space around them. Hopper’s figures seem to be a figurative element in architectonic spaces.

Only the audacious, Girlie Show, probably the one work where Hopper lets his guard down, do we get a sense of a figure taking over. That, thankfully, was at the show. Thank goodness for the little museums, the Terre from Chicago, Youngstown, Columbus and one or two other smaller museums, who allowed their star pieces to travel over to Rome, for a stellar show of Hopper. Lots of wonderful early works from Europe, where Hopper incorporated a little post-Impressionistic brushwork and palette to his early works. Thanks to the Fondazione Roma Museum for such a great show.

By the way, did you catch the Tim Burton show at the MoMA in New York? Wall to wall people, but another no show on photos, even though most of the stuff has appeared in movies. I wanted to shoot some of the stuff to take back to school to show the kids, but I guess the Modern thought it was better if they could make $15 on a book they were selling. They should check out some of their “guests” to openings who posted photos on some sites.


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One Response to “A trip to Roma is better. . .The Connecting”

  1. Gabsterq Says:


    Wonderful blog post, saw on…

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