Robert Otto Epstein

MORE or LESS at Hemphill Fine Arts

MORE or LESS at Hemphill Fine Arts

More or Less: Thoughts on a Comment Made by Walter Hopps

Spring of 1979; only a month after arriving in Washington, Walter Hopps, the revered and now mythical curator, pulled a chair around my desk and sat down beside me. I barely knew Hopps, but I did know enough to see the opportunity in the moment.

So I asked the star curator what he thought was the most important movement in American art. Hopps drew hard on his cigarette, not so much for the need of nicotine, but to give his response the flare of an actor revealing the secret to the plot. His answer: Abstract Expressionism. American art would always tend toward representation, because American art and the American character were bound by a literalness. Therefore Abstract Expressionism would be seen as the most unique and revealing of the American art movements. I cannot say if this was his true belief, or if Hopps was throwing out a response meant to push his inquisitor to think more openly. Nearly 40 years later, the number of artists creating abstract works is not waning.

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