Dennis Hopper has died today at the age of 74.
A Dennis Hopper exhibition showed at Melbourne’s ACMI during 2010 and some of the work was related to the big Hopper exhibition at New York’s Tony Shafrazi Gallery I saw in 2009. Hopper is more of an artist that I thought, more of a creative individual involved in being creative on a wide front as a life’s endeavour.
I was intrigued by his paintings and their curious relationship to photography. Hopper photographed actively from the 1960s, recording his work and social life in L.A. His photographs, shown seperately at Shafrazi, were lively, interesting records of a certain milieu – intelligent celebrities, if that’s not an oxymoron.
The paintings are the photographs scaled up, big and so accurately rendered in paint that you have to look twice to see that they are not large photographs. Paintings that are 2 x 2.5 metres in size are derived from 40 x 60cm photographs. It’s like the scale propositions of Roy Liechtenstein’s giant comic strip panels. Something changes in the enlargement, but what is it?
Hopper’s paintings have the same monochrome tonality, accidental background details and lens characteristics as the original photographs, but they are not photographs. They pay homage to photography but don’t quite live without the referent of the original photograph. As paintings they are curiously dead, like billboard paintings. Being copies of photographs, they lack the spirit of painting, the painter’s gestures, the hints of colour, the plasticity – Painting’s independence as a medium. They are signs representing Photography.
Call this subject “photography by other means”.
Which one is the painting?
Photographs from tonyshafrazigallery.com