On the Whitney's second floor, in a white-walled room whose hardwood floors resounded with heels clacking like cue balls, I stood in a gallery devoted solely to Hopper's paintings. Here were Seven A.M.: a storefront eerie in the thin morning sunlight; Early Sunday Morning: "The most famous row of windows in American painting," Hopper's biographer Gail Levin rightly notes; South Carolina Morning: Hopper's only painting with an African-American character; A Woman in the Sun: a merciless depiction of a nude woman having her morning cigarette; Second Story Sunlight: a disorienting view of a second-floor balcony holding a buxom young girl and an older woman; and Cobb's Barn and Distant Houses: a Cape Cod landscape.
It was like entering a different land: Hopperville. The sun is always brilliant. Houses are kept immaculately in the era in which they were built. No words are ever exchanged. People do normal things like eat, go to theaters, work jobs, and lie on beaches. But they never seem happy about it. They almost seem not to know why they do it or even that they are doing it. Occasionally, you glimpse the neighbors. But mostly when they don’t know you're looking. You hang inside, too, and hope nobody finds you here, on the lam from a crime you committed somewhere else and long ago. And a boat always stands ready in the harbor to steal you away.