Obvious

I had been wanting to see Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) for some time when I finally stopped at the Art Institute of Chicago. I made my way to the back and then up the stairs where I found this painting. I stood before it, gazing and wondering, intrigued by the missing doorways and interpersonal spaces, as well as the setting, colors, and light. Once I had my fill, I left the gallery and wandered toward the stairs when my eye snagged on another painting. I learned, when I looked closer, that it was Nightlife (1943) by Chicago painter Archibald J. Motley, who had depicted Bronzeville in Chicago on a Saturday night. To my surprise, I discovered that he had painted it in response to the Hopper painting that I had come to see. I was reassured and even comforted, as I stood in front of Motley’s response, after the sad despair of Hopper’s scene, and I left thinking how obvious was my preference, and not just for a Saturday night.

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