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- Contemporary Abstract Paintings for Modern Spaces
Edward Hopper Chop Suey
It typical fashion Edward Hopper presents for posterity an inconsequential moment of reflection, solitude, and alienation in the public sphere wherein the whole world seems to congregate. In his Chop Suey, a ubiquitous and memorable image, Hopper's ambiguous characters, or at least the one whose face is presented, seem lost in thought. The ghostly, distant stare of the central figure is mirrored in that of the man behind, whose darkened face looks down, escaping the gaze of his companion. Chop Suey is a starkly figurative canvas that toys with abstraction, as the diners are surrounded by what can only be described as a set of geometric shapes battling for verisimilitude. Indeed, many of the structural elements of the image seem divorced from the reality being depicted: the table between the two women, the rectangular windows and, visible through the back window, the blue and yellow glow of streets lights, headlights, or just the dancing light-play of the city. A quiet realism emerges from this canvas. For many it is a solemn vision, but could just as easily foresee a happy fate. It is the moment when life just seems to pass with ease, a time of pregnant silences cast against the frosted window of a warm winter interior.
Painted in the year of the Wall Street Crash, an event that would change the fates of countless Americans regardless of their rural or metropolitan base, Hopper's canvas is a response to a changing social terrain. The following year many would no longer possess the disposable income that would allow them to pursue lives as public individuals. Many are fascinated by the woman staring tentatively into the world of the viewer. Hopper uses a trope familiar in his works; the reflection. Although one can acknowledge that the woman sitting opposite the diner is her companion, many have noticed that she looks akin to a mirror image; a doppelgänger. If so, the image becomes immediately reconfigured as a narrative of solitude in the dangerous anonymity of the city. The figure's stare betrays a distinct vulnerability, a tendency for loneliness in the public sphere, and represents the changing status and pursuits of women in the early twentieth-century. Having studied the interior dramas of a number of modestly priced New York eateries, Hopper noticed the proliferation of female diners. Chop Suey is therefore a depiction of a modern woman; not the modern woman, but simply one of the crowd.
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