By now you’ve heard the sad news. Actor/writer/director Dennis Hopper has finally lost his battle with prostate cancer and passed away on Saturday, May 29th at the age of 74.
Dennis Hopper Tribute
Behind The Camera And The Canvas
In the papers and magazines, you’ll read about his troubled marriages, his drug addictions, his famous films that affected our culture like Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now. But the talented legend also leaves behind such a huge impact on the world of art and photography, he will be immortalized in many ways other than on celluloid -or digital, as the case may be.
In addition to the movies that made him a household name (Rebel Without A Cause, Giant, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet, Hoosiers and tons more), the actor was an incredibly respected and prolific photographer, painter, activist and documentarian.
By the time you finish reading this very comprehensive post (you had better pee now) on his work behind the camera and canvas, you’ll no longer think of him as Frank, the huffing villain in Blue Velvet, but instead may ask yourself “was Dennis Hopper also an actor?”
When it comes to being ‘hip’, Dennis Hopper was the epitome. Besides becoming buddies with uber cool actors such as James Dean, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dean Stockwell in the 50s and 60s, he brought his camera to many of the film sets on which he was working and captured wonderful images of his fellow actors and musicians of the time.
Hopper’s photos of Actors & Musicians:
Paul Newman, 1964 :
Bill Cosby (in front of Chateau Marmont), 1962:
Warhol’s Factory, 1963:
Tuesday Weld, 1965:
Jane Fonda, 1965:
Dean Stockwell, 1964:
Brian Jones, 1965:
Jefferson Airplane, 1965:
The Grateful Dead, 1965:
(as well as the one at the top of this post):
Man Within Light, self-portrait:
Hopper’s photos of the Civil Rights March
When he was only 28, he traveled to Alabama to take part in—and document—the now famous civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King Jr. Here are a few of those images:
He began collecting contemporary art in the 50s and was enviably smack in the midst of the POP art scene. In the 60s he hung out with the likes of artists Andy Warhol and his Factory, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Claus Oldenburg and Ed Ruscha, to name a few.
Below are some of his portraits of these talented artists, many amongst their own work. He also turned several of these 1960’s photographs into giant oil paintings later in his career, which are shown later in this post.
Hopper’s photos of Fine Artists
Gallery owner Virgina Dawn, in front of a Franz Kline painting, 1962:
Andy Warhol, two different photos by Dennis Hopper, 1963:
Jasper Johns, 1964 and Claus Oldenberg, 1965:
Roy Lichtenstein, 1964:
Bruce Conner, 1964:
Bruce Conner in bath tub, 1964 and Donald Factor, grandson of Max factor, 1964:
Larry Bell, 1964:
Ed Ruscha, 1964:
James Rosenquist in front of his painting, 1964:
art dealer Robert Fraser in Tijuana, 1965:
Robert Rauschenberg, 1966:
David Hockney (with painting of his father), 2007:
The respect was mutual and several artists and photographers created their own portraits of Dennis Hopper.
Hopper by other Artists & Photographers
Julian Schnabel‘s Plate painting of Hopper:
Andy Warhol‘s Polaroids of Hopper:
Andy Warhol used his Polaroids of Dennis for various silkscreens, like the 1971 one below:
Vicktor Skrebneski, 1990:
Jerome Bonet, 2009:
Hopper’s silver Gelatin Prints
Hopper also photographed the world around him and made stunning silver gelatin prints of his editorial and voyeuristic photos of places and people.
Double Standard, 1961:
Daily News, 1961:
Biker Couple, 1961:
Bad Heart (downtown Los Angeles), 1961:
Kennedy suite 1-8, 1963:
Fractured Girl (billboard), 1964:
Paris Woman, 1994:
Beginning in 2000, Hopper turned many of his earlier photos from the 60s into large scale oil paintings on vinyl. The installation shots below from Ace gallery give you an idea of the scale.
Large scale paintings of his photographs
Biker Couple as large scale oil painting, 2000:
Bill Cosby photograph as an oil painting, 2000:
Daily News Photo turned into Los Angeles Times oil painting, 2000:
Fractured Girl billboard as large scale oil painting, 2000:
Ed Ruscha photograph as an oil painting, 2002:
James Rosenquist photo as an oil painting, 2003:
Hopper’s portrait of Warhol with flower as an oil painting, 2006:
Miscellaneous works, prints, paintings and installations
After The Fall, 1961-1964:
Chevy painting, 1956:
Bad Heart, goldtone, 1988:
Untitled (shredded paper with tire), goldtone, 1988:
Space Triptych (at the Ace Gallery), 1996:
King Part Bust Trap, 1991-1997 installation at (the Ace Gallery):
Chevy 3D installation (at the Ace Gallery), 2000:
Hopper’s Ilfachrome Prints
With an eye for beauty in even the most mundane things, from 1995- 1997 he also created a series of large (approx 4’2″ by 6’3″) ilfochrome (formally cibachrome) prints of building details, textures, posted leaflets and graffiti taken in Morocco, Florence, Venice, Osaka, Prague, Berlin and New York.
Venice, Man Ray and Berlin, Chrome:
Prague, Stick and Florence, Capital:
Florence, Skull and Morocco, Terra Peel:
New York, UFO and Osaka, Black:
Venice, Plaster and Venice Walk, 7:
Nimes Red Figures, 1996:
There is an upcoming retrospective of his work, curated by artist Julian Schnabel who was inspired by Hopper’s fusion of art and film. MOCA, DENNIS HOPPER DOUBLE STANDARD, July 11 – September 26, 2010. Don’t miss it.
Several wonderful books feature collections of his work.