Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dennis Hopper's Double Standard at MOCA

This Summer I had the chance of spending a couple of days in California's most important cities: Los Angeles & San Francisco. Epicenters of culture, arts, economy, tourism, and fashion on the West Coast; these two metropolis offered those visiting and living there a couple of extras, which I will be writing about during this month in my blog.

I would like to start with one of the most important events of the Summer of 2010 in Los Angeles, the Dennis Hopper exhibit held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. From July 11 to September 26, 2010 this exhibit titled "Double Standard" displays the artistic genius of the late Dennis Hopper who passed away almost 3 months ago.

Curated by Julian Schnabel in collaboration with Hopper himself (he planned on attending it) the exhibit is an art celebration that goes from Hopper's abstract paintings, to his impressive collection of photographs, graffiti pieces, and assemblages.

For me the central piece of the exhibit was the "Double Standard" photograph which is shown below, taken by Hopper in 1961 at a gas station on the crossing of Santa Monica & Sunset Boulevard.

Yet it must be remembered that Dennis Hopper was an art veteran himself (artist & collector), having been introduced into Los Angeles' art world by his co-star in "Rebel Without A Cause", James Dean. He began collecting and creating a series of abstract-expressionist paintings, most of which were destroyed during a fire in Bel Air in 1961. Only his "Untitled" painting from 1955 survived.

The star of "Easy Rider" decided to focus on a new art form, photography after this event. His photographs capture the essence of the 60s, featuring subjects that range from Martin Luther King Jr., Andy Warhol, Roger Vadim & Jane Fonda (shown below), Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Roy Lietchestein, to those who participated in the 1967 Sunset Strip Riots & the Summer of Love in San Francisco.

Warhol and Hopper met after he purchased one of Andy's iconic Campbell's Soup Cans. In 1963 Dennis made an appearance at Warhol's film "Tarzan and Jane Regained...Sort of". Influenced by Andy Warhol & Marcel Duchamp, Hopper began seeking inspiration from common "everyday"objects such as billboards and products; leading to the creation of "La Salsa Man", "Mobil Man", & "Coca-Cola Sign (Found Object). One of his most well known sculptures is the antiwar "Bomb Drop" (1967) which originally was a WWII bomb-dropping device.

Around 1967, Hopper began making some films. Five years later he collaborated with Warhol in one of his Mao silkscreens. From 1972 to 1981 he had an art hiatus in Taos, New Mexico. He resumed his art passion afterwards by creating media-collage paintings.

After a trip to Morocco in 1994 he decided to create a painting series inspired by the walls he saw there. Using prints of stills from his 90s film "Colors" he decided to transfer these to a canvas where he would add graffiti related iconography. As a matter of fact on one of the exhbit's "alleys" one can see some graffiti created by Hopper displayed in such a way that it makes you feel on the streets.

Besides painting, during the last years of his life Hopper continued taking photographs while travelling around New York, Los Angeles, and Sicily.

Worth noticing at the end of the exhibit is a series of photographs taken by a female photographer who was inspired by films such as "Easy Rider" and "Vertigo". This artist decided to recapture the settings from these films with her own camera. The support of these films' directors and producers allowed her to take these photos on the exact spot where these movies had been filmed. Another bonus is the screening of clips from Hopper's films such as: "Easy Rider", "Apocalypse Now", "True Romance" and "Giant".

After visiting "Double Standard" I recommend you head up to the MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art) which is several blocks nearby. Your admission ticket covers both museums. At the MOCA you'll have the opportunity to appreciate some of the finest examples of Contemporary Art created by the likes of Mondrian, Miro, Warhol, Pollock, Lietchenstein, Gorky (who currently has an exhbit there), Reinhardt, Johns, Jensen, and Asher.

Below a still from the 1996 Julian Schnabel film "Basquiat", with Dennis Hopper as gallerist Bruno Bischofberger, with Jean Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright), Andy Warhol (David Bowie), and Gary Oldman as fictious character Albert Milo.

Photos: Own, Flickr, LA Times

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