Bump in the Night

image: Martin Webb, Northside, 2015

During the COVID-19 pandemic, creative people have been reenacting classical paintings at home (see some at #tussenkunstenquarantaine). But way back in 2013 The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam celebrated it's re-opening with a flashmob, re-creating one of the most famous Rembrandt paintings, "The Night Watch".

The title evokes a sense of mystery and intrigue – a city engulfed in darkness, rife with criminals. And even though "The Night Watch" is not the original title of the work, AND the scene is set indoors, not on the streets of Amsterdam – it reminds us that nighttime has always been an alluring topic for artists.

In modern art, one of most ubiquitous night scenes is Edward Hopper’s “Night Hawks”. Painted in 1942 it depicts a Greenwich Village restaurant with just a few diners smoking and drinking coffees with the sole waiter on a desolate urban street. This painting influenced hundreds of other artists, poets and filmmakers from Banksy to Ridley Scott.

image: #2133 by Todd Hido, published in 2001

The contemporary photographer Todd Hido, is known for furtively snapping photos of suburban houses at night. Lit from within and sometimes shrouded in fog, they are melancholic – but appeal to many for their nostalgic trappings of hearth and home.

Our featured artist, Martin Webb, spent many hours taking long walks through his neighborhood in Berkeley, California from 2015-18. He writes, “I’d started taking photographs late at night and became intrigued by the way that familiar scenes are transformed by darkness and stark artificial light. I noticed how the urban landscape makes sense when human activity is present but takes on stranger qualities when the people are absent”. Muted by dusk, the shapes of the houses he passed became more abstract and symbolic, standing in for the hopes and dreams of their inhabitants.

Webb’s color palette is heavily influenced by nature and the landscape – and by travel to the Sierra mountains where he explored old mining towns. His iconic stripes could be fences and crosswalks lit by the street lamps, or planks of wood falling from abandoned boomtown shacks.

We are highlighting six 14 x 14” paintings from Webb’s Nightwalking series. To see more, visit Martin's website at martinwebbart.com.