Dennis Hopper

Posted: April 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: art sur canapé: exhibition reviews | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

I was 18 when I first went under contract for Warner Brothers. As soon as I was on the film set, I’ve got the feeling cinema was the fullest and most achieved artistic expression. None art involved photography, design, architecture, music, literature until then… Movies encompassed all the art I knew.” (Conversation between Dennis Hopper and Matthieu Orléan, Dennis Hopper & le Nouvel Hollywood, La Cinémathèque française, 2008)

edruscha

Edward Ruscha, 1964, silver print, Dennis Hopper collection, Los Angeles

Everybody knows about Dennis Hopper in the movie industry but I realize only a few people heard of his paintings or his photographs.
Last Fall at the Cinémathèque in Paris, the show Dennis Hopper & le Nouvel Hollywood displayed works by Hopper as well as his own contemporary art collection. On this occasion, I had the privilege to attend the screening of Out of the Blue, a 1980 film featuring and directed by Dennis Hopper which focuses on a rebellious teenage girl, her ex-convict father and her drug addict mother. The title was inspired by a song by his close friend Neil Young.
Visiting the exhibition, I was struck by the fact that Hopper has digested all the major artistic trends of the XXth century: Pop Art, Marcel Duchamp, Collage, Abstract Expressionism, Photojournalism…

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After the Fall, 1961-1964, mixed media, Dennis Hopper collection, Los Angeles

Mr. Hopper’s arty bio
1945: the young Hopper moves to Missouri and starts acting and painting at the Nelson Art Gallery
1953: meets actor Vincent Price who becomes his mentor and introduced him to Modern Art. Dennis Hopper recalls: “When Vincent Price showed me his collection, I was both dismayed and relieved. Until now I thought my paintings were peculiar and suddenly I realized they follow the tradition of Abstract Expressionism, which I only heard of at the time
1955: meets James Dean on the set of Rebel Without a Cause who encouraged him to do photography
1959: spends some time in New York after being banned from Hollywood (he got into a confrontation with an influent director). On location he takes black and white photographs to improve composition. At the time he admits being influenced by Robert Capa
1961: almost 300 works are destroyed in the fire of his Bel Air house. Hopper is devastated and stops painting. Shortly after he bought some Pop Art: a Mona Lisa and a $75 Campbell Soup by Warhol
Double Standard was shot that year. It is a photograph of a street junction in Los Angeles with a billboard at its center where we can read Smart women cook with gas in balanced power homes. Hopper admits being inspired and struck by LA’s driving culture and its huge billboards

doublestandard
Double Standard, 1961, silver print, Dennis Hopper collection, Los Angeles

1964: first solo show of some of his mixed media works in Los Angeles. At the same time he goes by the nickname The Tourist because he always carries a camera. He takes photographs of movie stars and artists such as Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg

paulnewman,jpg
Paul Newman, 1964, silver print, Dennis Hopper collection, Los Angeles

1967: gives up photography when Easy Rider, his first movie as director, went into production. “I didn’t take any photographs because I was acting and directing a movie and I didn’t know what to do with the camera
1971: opens a theater and an art gallery in Taos, New Mexico, where he just moved in
1972: shots twice at a Warhol’s Mao he bought previously
around 1990 he gets back to photography after he purchased a Nikon camera. He does mainly abstract photographs; the new thing being color photographs.
2000: designs vinyl billboards from his 60’s photos
from 2005 he uses digital cameras exclusively

American actor/director born 1936 in Kansas, USA.
He is currently living and working in Venice, California.

books:
Dennis Hopper: Paintings, Photographs, Films, NAi Publishers/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2001
Dennis Hopper: Photographs from 1961-1967, Dennis Hopper, Art Pub Inc., 1993

art gallery:
Ace Gallery (Los Angeles)
http://www.acegallery.net/

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Dennis Hopper: A Survey, 2006, installation view, Ace Gallery, Los Angeles