Early photographic works by the legendary actor and director are on view now at Gagosian Madison Avenue. Isabel Wilkinson talks to the artist’s daughter about the significance of the works.
Dennis Hopper, the legendary American actor and director who died in 2010, was a person who, in the words of his daughter, “liked things to be bigger and stronger.” His film work reveals as much: he commanded the screen in Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, and Blue Velvet.
Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964. (Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, (c) Dennis Hopper, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Art Trust)
But his photographic work, on view this week at a new show at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery in New York, shows a side of Hopper that is smaller, quieter, and more vulnerable.
Hopper took the photographs that make up this show, entitled The Lost Album, between 1961 to 1967, just before he began work on Easy Rider. His wife Brooke Hayward gave him a Nikon in 1961, which, she recalls in an interview in the accompanying catalog, “he never ever, ever, for the rest of my life with him—we got married and then divorced in 1968 or 1969—he never took it off."
The Daily Pic: The artist-designer made sound sculpture that responds to touch.
This is “Sonambient Sculpture”, made by the great sculptor and designer Harry Bertoia in 1977, after this once-famous artist had started falling from favor. I saw this table-top work, about three feet wide and made from “berylium copper”, in the booth of Lost City Arts at the Collective Design Fair now on in New York. It’s a lovely piece of late-modern formalism – except that it’s more than that. Like many of Bertoia’s pieces, it’s also an “instrument”, of sorts, responding to your touch with a lovely chiming jangle. (Click on the image to see and hear it in action). It must partly be about resisting the “don’t touch” message that most sculpture comes with.
From a recreation of Do Ho Suh’s apartment in green polyester to a creepily robotic chatty little girl, a look at what not to miss at this weekend’s exhibition on Randall’s Island.
The Frieze Art Fair in New York—the city’s answer to the famed London fair—kicked off Thursday morning in a torrential downpour. But intrepid fair-goers trekked to Randall’s Island by East River Water Taxi, where they were greeted by artist Paul McCarthy's giant red inflatable dog, which towered over the fair itself. Unsurprisingly, the more than 180 booths inside offered everything imaginable. There is a slick Doug Aitken wall-mounted sculpture with the words “ART” written in cracked mirror (to remind us of our own narcissism? Of a discipline that’s falling apart? Or maybe just to serve as a mirror in case we have something in our teeth?) There's a video by Chinese artist Qiu Anxiong, The Temptation of the Land (2009), which served as an animated commentary on the destruction caused by the construction of an Olympic stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, on the natives of Beijing. There was an empty, haunting self-portrait by the Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic, her mouth ringed with plated gold. By midday, the fair was chock full of people: designer Valentino Garavani, in a perfectly tailored brown suit, went from booth to booth—as did the actor Andrew Garfield, who appeared to be led around by an adviser. And deals were happening here: quickly but quietly, art appeared to be selling, under the nose of tourists and kids taking Instagrams. Below, our list of art not to miss at the fair. (Frieze New York, on Randall's Island, runs May 10-13.)
1. Francesco Vezzoli, Unique Forms of Continuity in High Heels, Bronze, 2012 (Yvonne Lambert Gallery)
When you’re wandering through the wide alleys between booths, this loping golden sculpture by Francesco Vezzoli will stop you in your tracks. It’s simultaneously a riff on and commemoration of Umberto Boccioni’s 1913 sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, a touchstone of Futurism. But the original was also a symbol of masculinity: a bullish, mulscular soldier, rumbling forward through space and time. Now, Vezzoli recreates the statue in high heels—which, hopefully, will cause some gender-studies student somewhere to write a dissertation on what all this means for gender identity. Here we all are, collectively rumbling forward, in five-inch stilettos.
2. Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Bakersfield, CA, 2011, 2011 (Salon 94)
For 2013 National Design Awards.
Honoring work from across the design spectrum, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has announced the winners of this year’s National Design Awards. First created in 2000, the awards were given this year to James Wines for lifetime achievement, critic Michael Sorkin for design mind, TED for corporate achievement, Studio Gang Architects for architecture, Paula Scher for communication design, Behnaz Sarafpour for fashion, Local Projects for interaction design, Aidlin Darling Design for interior design, Margie Ruddick for landscape architecture, and NewDealDesign for product design.
The Daily Pic: Sebastian Errazuriz designs shelving that folds away.
I spotted Sebastian Errazuriz’s “Piano” shelving yesterday, in the Cristina Grajales booth at the new Collective Design Fair in New York. It’s a truly clever concept: The separate bars (or “keys”) that make up the shelves can be pulled down as needed, depending on the objects than you want to display. Two thoughts, though: First, if the shelves were engineered without gaps they could be used for books, which is the most pressing, and ever-changing, shelving need for most of us (bars pulled half-way down could even act as bookends); second, as things stand, there’s a danger that such witty and attractive shelves could encourage knick-knacky tendencies in even the most restrained of us, infecting modern spareness with Victorian clutter. Just because you own something nice doesn’t mean you have to display it…
The Daily Pic: In 1993, Cheryl Donegan added sex to conceptual art.
This is a still from “Head”, a strange video by Cheryl Donegan that’s in the show called “1993” at the New Museum in New York. (Click on the image to watch the video.) The piece – surprise, surprise – was made in 1993, and feels like a comic take-off on the “procedural” videos made by conceptual artists two decades earlier. (“Watch me doing something; watch me doing something else.”) Here, Donigan seems to sexualize their work, and inject some gender and power issues into their art-about-art premises.
Christie’s is set to auction a 1929 painting by Leger that reminded Gregory Peck of his wife.
How does a Hollywood legend tell the love of his life how he feels? If you are Gregory Peck, you buy her Fernand Leger’s Les deux figures. The intimacy of the contrasting figures in the painting represented to Peck the love he had for his longtime wife, Veronique Peck. The painting, which Peck bought in 1984, is expected to go for between $3-5 million, and is among notable works by Picasso, Soutine, Monet, Pissarro and Derain to be auctioned off Wednesday night in Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale.
Les deux figures, 1929, by Fernand Leger. (Christie’s)
The Daily Pic: In one of the world's greatest prints, the German master stays on the sidelines.
I was left dumbfounded by almost every picture in the current Albrecht Durer show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, but this 1514 engraving of Saint Jerome at work in his study is one of the artist’s most virtuosic demonstrations. (I’ll be Daily Pic-ing others over coming weeks.) Riding a favorite hobby horse of mine, however, I wonder how many viewers recognize how strange it is that Durer gives precisely half the normal view you’d expect in an image like this: The scene’s viewpoint (or vanishing point) is at the far right edge of the picture rather than smack in its center, as prescribed by the standard perspective constructions recently mastered by northern artists like Durer. It’s as though Durer had taken a conventional image and sliced it down the middle. I’ve suggested technical explanations for the use of eccentric perspectives in 17th-century Holland, but in this earlier case I wonder if there isn’t a kind of almost theological point: When modern sinners try to witness a long-gone sacred scene, etiquette insists that they stay on its margins. Sanctity must be approached crabwise.
Artists invited the inmates at Illinois’s Tamms supermax prison to request one image of anything in the world, real or imagined—and then they photographed it. See the powerful results.
This story is published in collaboration with Creative Time Reports.
Illinois's Tamms supermax prison, built in 1998, was a scary place. Prisoners were not allowed phone calls and were barred from visits or activities. Men incarcerated there were permitted to leave their cells only to shower or exercise alone. And unlike most prisons, food was pushed through the doors of each cell rather than served in a cafeteria.
“Photo Requests From Solitary” was one of many projects launched by Tamms Year Ten to build publicity for the campaign to close Tamms supermax prison. The inmates were invited to request a photograph of anything in the world, real or imagined. One chose his aunt’s house. (Laurie Jo Reynolds and Stephen Eisenman, via Creative Time Reports. Photo by Chris Murphy, 2012.)
Prisoners there became severely depressed: some began to compulsively mutilate themselves; others attempted suicide. The treatment at Tamms became known as the “worst of the worst” in the prison system: long-term solitary confinement, rife with human-rights violations. Amnesty International called Tamms “harsh,” “unnecessarily punitive,” and “incompatible with the USA’s obligation to provide humane treatment for all prisoners.”
The Daily Pic: Leidy Churchman's video shows abstract art in the making.
This is a still from a strange video called “Blood”, by the young American artist Leidy Churchman. (Click on the image to view the video.) It’s in a group show at Robert Miller gallery that’s all about the influence and afterlife of Lee Krasner, the great Abstract Expressionist. “Blood” fits perfectly: It offers a kind of “live” update on Krasner-era abstraction. The camera shows us paint and colored objects being pushed around on a surface, so you’re never sure whether the “work” at hand is that surface itself or the video you’re watching of it getting marked – and whether either one should qualify as abstraction, since they’re so present as real stuff in the world. Churchman puts the “action” back in Action Painting.
The Daily Pic: In 1969, Richard Serra risked it all with one ton of lead.
I think Richard Serra’s “One Ton Prop (House of Cards)”, from 1969, is the summation of his art, and one of the great works of the last 50 years. The piece – four quarter-ton sheets of lead, four-foot square and held in place by their weight – is now on view in David Zwirner’s beautifully Brutalist new gallery in New York. This “Prop” is all about risk: Physical, artistic and aesthetic. And then the product of that risk turns out to be wonder and pleasure, even beauty. The risk is real, so it produces genuine sublimity. In Serra’s more recent, crowd-pleasing works, the risk is all simulation – no one will die and pleasure’s guaranteed – so the effect is that much less potent.
The artist's latest show captures emotional portraits of her country’s frustrated youth.
“If you can’t breathe through your nose, you open your mouth to continue breathing,” says Newsha Tavakolian. The Iranian photographer is using a famous Farsi aphorism to talk about what it’s like to work in her country’s repressive atmosphere these days. It’s a theme that informs her portraiture, which has become more emotional and poetic as creative opportunities in Iran have become riskier.
Her most recent project, Look, is a series of portraits featuring young Iranian men and women—mostly family and friends—shot within the confines of Tavakolian’s home, inside a large concrete apartment building. “I wanted to bring to life the story of a nation of middle-class youths who lack hope for the future and are constantly battling with themselves in isolation,” she says. “Everyone hides this moment of insecurity through social conformity; you’d have no indication of these private moments of doubt were you to walk through the streets of Tehran.”
Tavakolian took care in framing each photograph, basing her composition on her intimate understanding of the subject’s moods and life story. The result is evocative, though never overdramatized. The subjects, she says, “are not acting. This work is a documentary incorporating artistic elements to make it more challenging and engaging both for the viewers as well as for myself.”
The series originally began as a more traditional work of reportage portraiture, documenting her subjects in situ as they went about their daily lives. Yet Tavakolian found her first images to be flat and emotionally unexpressive. Then, she happened to see the film The Yacoubian Building, released in 2009 as an adaption of the Egyptian book by the same title. It’s a roman à clef critiquing pre-revolutionary Egypt through the intertwined narratives of residents living in the same apartment building. Tavakolian realized that the perfect location for the shoots had been right in front of her for nearly 10 years.
The Daily Pic: In 1588, Hendrick Goltzius showed the Greek teen scorched by the sun.
“The Fall of Icarus”, by Hendrick Goltzius, is one of my all-time favorite images by one of my all-time favorite artists. (Click on the picture to see it much enlarged, which is crucial to its appreciation.) The piece is from a series of four similar engravings called “The Four Disgracers” (great name for a rock band), printed in 1588 and now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I love the tiny figure of Daedalus, still safely bewinged in the far background, and the gormless expression of his teenage son, tumbling to earth after flying too close to the sun. The funny thing is that this image, which feels like classic Goltzius, was in fact based on a design by the painter Cornelisz van Haarlem. I don’t know if that means I need to downgrade my rating of Goltzius or increase my praise for Cornelisz van Haarlem – both hard for me to do.
The Daily Pic: Joyce Wieland pushes back the timeline for feline films.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa: On Friday, I claimed to have found the earliest YouTube-ish cat video, filmed in 1979 by the artist B. Wurtz, but I warned that someone was bound to point out some still earlier contender. That someone was the Vancouver publisher new-documents.org, who immediately tweeted out the fabulous "Cat Food", shot by Joyce Wieland one full decade before Wurtz did his piece. (Click on today's image to watch it – and let me know if you've got a still earlier cat film up your sleeve.) I'm doubly ashamed of my lapse because Wieland (who died in 1998) sits in two categories of artists I follow especially closely: Pioneering women, and Canadians. I know and love Wieland's work, but this piece had passed me by. It suddenly occurred to me that it's a kind of animal lover's tribute to – or piss-taking of – Warhol's great movie "Eat", which I only recently saw (and in which the cat's appearance is too brief to make the piece count as a contender).
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