PRINT January 1969



Congratulations on Jerrold Lanes’ excellent article on Edward Hopper in the October Artforum. I’ve long had a particular interest in his work and wrote my master’s thesis on it. His thoughts on Hopper’s work offered me fresh insights and articulation of some shadowy feelings I’ve had about his work.

I very much enjoyed the discussion of Hopper’s highly developed personal vocabulary, or motifs, or private symbolism (as Lanes so aptly put it). I would like to point out Hopper’s unique motif, the interior and the exterior simultaneously viewed. This motif is related to his interest in window glass, glass which reveals and isolates, which is a palpable though deceptive barrier, as in New York Office (1962), or Tables for Ladies. Hopper also shows windows which are open, as in Rooms by the Sea (1951). (Sometimes these open windows show evidence of the wind, as has been observed by several writers.)

Hopper’s interior/exterior motif was conscious; he noted Burchfield’s observance of this phenomenon in the article Hopper wrote on him in 1928. Netherlandish painting frequently showed the interior and the exterior, but Hopper is the only artist in modern times who has recorded this vision as a motif. Hopper explores four variations on this theme: the exterior with the interior glimpsed, for example, Cape Cod Morning (1950), or High Noon; the interior with the exterior glimpsed, Morning in the City; the exterior with the interior revealed, Nighthawks (1942); and the interior with the exterior revealed, Room in Brooklyn (1932), or Western Motel.

I don’t know just why Hopper found this motif so attractive. Certainly his abiding interest in light is one reason. The glimpse which these compositions afford is related, of course, to his motifs of travel. Hopper frequently said that he sought a sense of the passing scene, as though seen while traveling. Perhaps as a student this tendency was reinforced by Henri, who said, “The look of a wall or a window is a look into time and space. Windows are symbols. They are openings in. The wall carries its history. What we seek is not the moment alone.”

—Christie Kaiser
New York City

A recent new law, exempting certain art works from seizure by creditors, may be of interest to your readers.

On June 22, 1968, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller signed into law a bill that most certainly will have a salutatory effect in maintaining New York’s leadership as an art and cultural center.

The new law basically provides that no creditor shall be able to seize any work of fine art (the term “fine art” is defined as a painting, sculpture, drawing or work of graphic art) while such work is enroute to or from, or while on exhibition or deposited by a non-resident exhibitor at any exhibition held under the auspices or supervision of any museum, college, university or other non-profit art gallery, institution or organization within this state for any cultural, educational, charitable or other purpose not conducted for profit to the exhibitor.

The new law protects non-resident exhibitors from having their “fine art” work seized by a creditor in New York as long as such exhibition is one that is not conducted for profit. The new law does not protect residents of New York while exhibiting their works of “fine art” even if such exhibition is not conducted for profit.

This law extends a precedent established back in 1880 by the New York State Legislature, which granted a similar exemption to purely commercial exhibits at international exhibitions held under the auspices of the United States.

Fine Art Exhibitions are and will continue to be of paramount importance in maintaining New York’s leadership as a center for promoting and encouraging artistic and cultural expression. Many, if not most exhibitions, depend upon the borrowing of works of fine art from public and private collections as well as from artists from all over the world. Before the passage of this law, many of the art works at such exhibitions were amenable to creditor’s remedies. Due to this situation, the nonresident exhibitor could refuse to lend his art work for exhibitions within New York State. This new law, as indicated, removes the fear of harassment on the part of lenders of works of fine art which might tend to discourage foreign exhibits from crossing state or national boundaries, into New York State.

The new law does not affect the rights of creditors of non-residents whose works are sent here for exhibitions where such works are for sale; in other words, for profit.

The law is a definite step in the right direction. It is hoped, however, that the definition of the term “fine art” be expanded to cover more specifically other forms of artistic expression.

—David B. Saxe
Assistant Professor of Law
City University of New York

When, as now, galleries abound with so much serious and exploratory art, some of which has been ably discussed in the pages of Artforum, why is one invited to read Jane Livingston’s superfluous nonsense about Barry Le Va’s distributional sculpture (November)? Adventurous as these “distributions” are, they strike me as a hoax which cannot sustain a literary interpretation: or is the review a trite satire?

—F. D. Hill
New York City

A crucial episode in the history of error has taken place on page 44 of Artforum, December 1968. There are only three sites of Franklin, N.J. shown in the photograph on that page, and not five as is stated. What happened to the other two sites? Were they chopped away to balance the Rowlandson next to it? It seems an unexplored realm of picture re-making is being opened up.

—Robert Smithson
New York City

I have forwarded the enclosed clipping for reasons of historical interest, and as a service to the continuity of the genre of “Colossal Monuments” as proposed by Mr. Claes Oldenburg. It would seem that San Diego, in its desire to be abreast of the times, has stolen a march on most American urban centers by being one of the first with its own “Colossal Cabrillo.” What bothers me most of all, I think, is that the city fathers did not have the benefit of any Claes-like understanding of the impact of such proposed works. They are, in fact, very serious about their “altered postcard” proposal. Perhaps Chicago will be next, with a 170-foot “Colossal Mayor Daley.”

—Brian W. Smith
San Diego, Calif.

I am writing a book on Thomas Eakins, which will include a catalogue raisonné of his works. I would appreciate it if anyone who owns work by Eakins, with whom I have not already been in communication, would be kind enough to write me at the address below. This would be of great help in completing the record of this leading American artist.

—Lloyd Goodrich, Advisory Director
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10021