NARRATOR: A man and a woman are alone in an office. It’s not clear how late at night it is, but it’s late enough that the room’s bright light is all artificial. The relationship between the two figures is impossible to decide. It’s possible that they’re both hard at work. But it may also be that her attentive gaze suggests something more, and that his apparent focus is meant to mask a conflict—whether internal or external.

Whatever is going on here, we’ll never know. We seem to be outside the room, and perhaps looking into it only very quickly. Look at the wall behind the assistant. It has a brightly illuminated shape that seems to come from the street—or even a passing train. Hopper once said that he was inspired to paint this scene after looking into office windows while on the elevated train. The strange vantage point leaves us physically close to these people but also utterly distanced from them—a uniquely urban condition. The painting Conference at Night, also on view in this gallery, explores a similar space and subject, though to very different ends.

 


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