Exhibitions: Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

By Lambirth, Andrew | The Spectator, July 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

Exhibitions: Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album


Lambirth, Andrew, The Spectator


Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens, until 19 October

Radical Geometry

Royal Academy, until 28 September

In an age when photographs have swollen out of all proportion to their significance, and are mounted on wall-sized light boxes the better to show off their high-resolution colour, it's a relief to see an exhibition of small photographic prints in good old black and white. Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) is best known as an actor and hell-raiser, but he was also an artist who worked in various media. 'I am an Abstract Expressionist and an Action Painter by nature,' he insisted, but in the Sixties he took thousands of photographs, a group of 400 of which are now on display in the Academy's Burlington Gardens galleries. Because they are relatively small, they are arranged in blocks on the walls of these spacious rooms. The viewer can look at them sequentially, or can move around more freely, jumping in and out of the river of images, sampling as you go. If Hopper had continued to take photographs, rather than giving up when he started to direct the film Easy Rider in 1967, he could easily have made a name as a photographer. As it is, there's still plenty to see and enjoy.

The work dates from 1961 to 1967, when Hopper was in his mid to late twenties and his visual curiosity was evidently leading him in all directions, from social commentary to abstract textures. He didn't crop his images but printed them full-frame, which means he was composing carefully with the camera, making the viewfinder do the work. In fact, we can see the development of a natural eye for composition emerging through the display in the way that Hopper places and frames his elements. The show starts with a self-portrait reflected in a headlamp, a deliberately arty and self-conscious but oblique image. From the beginning it's clear that he's closely involved with the art world: here are portraits of Martial Raysse with a neon sculpture, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tinguely, Kienholz, Ruscha, and Rauschenberg with something nasty printed on his tongue. There's Duchamp with curator Walter Hopps, and Peter Blake lurking behind a photograph of Peter Blake. There's a pleasing informality and directness to these shots, and even when obviously posed they often have the spontaneity of street scenes.

Besides the beautiful people and the Sixties' Bright Young Things, there is the politics of the counterculture, and downtown LA tramps sifting through rubbish give way to images of Martin Luther King at the microphone. These are photos shot from the hip, taken on the run, and even when obviously set up, Hopper mostly gets his subjects to look relaxed. He's already interested in patterns and textures (see Paul Newman in the chain mail of chain-link fence shadows), and photos of dancing hippies and Hells Angels shift through motorbikes and love-ins to crushed leaves and tombstones in Mexico. A long bullfight sequence is superseded by a group of more abstract shots of walls and barred shadows, corrugated iron, torn paper, chains and bedsprings.

Here is someone with a keen interest in the effects of light and narrativeless images, in the things that were being done in contemporary art. A painted broken window is like a painting, a torn gauze is reminiscent of an early Lee Miller. A photo of paint blisters looks like a sculpture in silhouette. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Exhibitions: Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.