MOCA: Dennis Hopper Double Standard


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The actor's death casts a shadow over a retrospective of his work, opening July 11 at MOCA, but his close involvement with the event makes it a personal reflection of his role as an artist.

Dennis Hopper was 'closely involved' in upcoming MOCA show, says museum director Jeffrey Deitch.

There have been many tributes to renegade actor Dennis Hopper since he died Saturday at age 74 of complications from prostate cancer. But what might be the biggest tribute to the renegade artist Dennis Hopper is yet to come, because the Museum of Contemporary Art here is preparing to mount a sweeping survey of his visual art to open July 11.

“Dennis Hopper Double Standard," curated by Julian Schnabel, will include artwork by Hopper from the last six decades, from an abstract 1955 painting to his 1960s photographs of soon-to-be-famous friends like Andy Warhol to so-called graffiti paintings of the 1980s. Incoming MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch singles out as “especially fascinating" more recent “wall constructions that relate to film sets" and installations using films such as “Easy Rider."

Judging from comments on the L.A. Times article breaking news about the show, it has already inspired fierce reaction on both sides. Some called the choice of artist an embarrassment or “tragedy" for MOCA ("Sorry, but he is no Ed Ruscha"). Others sounded excited to see the museum branching out. ("I think it's actually a wonderful idea for an exhibition.")

Deitch, the former New York gallerist who starts his job as the director of MOCA on Tuesday, has been organizing the show in what seems like lightning speed (make that Manhattan gallery speed?) for the museum world.

He had the idea for the show last winter while talking to Schnabel in New York, who was fresh from a visit with Hopper. Schnabel had directed Hopper, a longtime friend, as the Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger in his 1996 film “Basquiat."

Originally Deitch said he hoped to organize the show “in time for Hopper to attend the opening." While that hasn't happened, he says Hopper was “closely involved" in preparations for the show in his final weeks.

Before catching a flight to Los Angeles, Deitch issued the following statement.

“I am very saddened to hear of the passing of artist, actor and filmmaker Dennis Hopper. The reason for doing the exhibition 'Dennis Hopper Double Standard' at MOCA at this time in Dennis' life was so that he could be closely involved."

“Dennis participated in the selection of works and how the show would be presented, working closely with myself, exhibition curator Julian Schnabel, curatorial consultant Fred Hoffman and with the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. He was involved with the exhibition press release, the choice and approval of every image for every magazine, in the design of the print advertisements -- in every aspect of the exhibition."

“His passing will change the context of the exhibition, but it will be a celebration of his diverse and iconic works and his role as an artist. Dennis was very happy and gratified to be having an L.A. museum retrospective."

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