We may look to specific artists to explore the nature of therelationship of the work of art, the artist, the public, and culture, in a four-way view of the artistic element of our social matrix. When we look at the work of both Edward Hopper and Alberto Giacometti, we are immediately faced with fascinating specific details that helps to ground the discussion of artist, art work, society, and culture in particular contexts of these two artists and theirartistic images and mediums. If we look further into the works at hand, both Hopper’s “Gas,” and Giacometti’s “City Square,” we realize how many different interpretations may be made of a sole work of art, and that these interpretations depend not entirely upon who the viewer is, but also upon the actual themes and subjects depicted in the art works.
When we view Hopper’s “Gas,” it is a viewingthat is accomplished in context of knowledge about this painter, that he lived from 1882 to 1967, spanning the post-Civil War era, through the fin-de-siecle, into the turn of the century, through the Depression, WWI, WWII, the conservative fifties, the radical sixties, and the Vietnam War. Hopper witnessed tremendous upheavals in world history and US culture and society in the course of his lifetime.He also experienced many changing trends in methods, materials, and subjects depicted through visual art. Considered by critics to be one of the most important American painters of the twentieth century, Hopper’s work is dubbed ‘New Realism’ and is often counter-posed against the work of Jackson Pollock and the school of Abstract Expressionism.Hopper did not shy away from conceptual notions inhis work, so although his painterly style and subject matter is considered realist. He was also a leading edge painter in what is known as American “Pop Art,” as well.
Any artworks may be viewed with an eye towards their symbolic imagery, whether that imagery depicts realistic elements of our world, or fantasy images of dream worlds. The fact of symbolism is imbued into every work of art simplybecause it is a visual product of our environment and we, as human beings, often bring the idea of the symbol or representation to what we consider to be art. In that we create a relationship in our minds between what the artist is doing, what he or she depicts, and how we view our own world as we gaze upon the visual field that is our sensory representation of our existence. We draw conclusionsbased upon what the artist depicts, about what the artist considered as important and therefore also wishes his or her audience to consider as meaningful. The idea of anti-meaning is not often present in the discussion of symbolism in art, namely there are few critics who would say that art means nothing as a visual symbol. Let’s assume, therefore, that we are looking always at symbols ofconsciousness and our world view when we look at the work of art as an individual window or frame of reference.
In the ‘view’ we may take of Hopper’s “Gas,” the immediate image is striking as it combines both human –made and industrial notions that are iconic, related to American society and progress- the gas station. This is also the local ‘watering hole,’ in many small towns in America, where peopleexchange gossip, greet one another, buy a Coke, sit outside and watch the cars go by, and where the workers are the ‘salt of the earth,’ in that they are the men who keep the cars on the road, fix the brakes, pump the gas, and make America function literally by greasing the wheels of the everyday American. What we see is this iconic image of the gas pump, the station, and yet the power of the...