Fahey/Klein’s current exhibit Dennis Hopper: In Dreams is a renewed opportunity to feel a part of Hopper’s creative atmosphere and float through a charming selection of his black-and-white photographs. In conjunction with the newly published book of the same name, the show presents his very personal and documentary photographs spanning from 1961-67. Exceptionally candid and warm, Hopper’s visual aesthetic carries cerebral weight while activating both a sense of reveal and the surreal in his subjects.
In Dreams connects Hopper with the song of the same title by music legend Roy Orbison. Featured in David Lynch’s cinematic triumph, Blue Velvet, the song and Hopper share many connections: his epic performance as Frank Booth in the unforgettable avant-garde film, his visionary way of seeing the world, and a resonance in the way his pictures give back presence and capture the moment, when something skipped or missed but stored in the subconscious reappears in our dreams.
Hopper snapped his own moments while making memories and scenarios for everyone else. His curiosity and composition makes us see his black and white images as cool moments stolen from a growing narrative, something secret to anyone outside of his circle, or unfamiliar with humanity’s deeply experimental nature. Historically, his photos document a very specific subculture of California artists and hippies. Incredible photographs like “Biker Couple” give back a vivid portrait of freedom and rebellion, timeless and raw. The true consciousness culture of the Sixties is forever contained in his images.
A part of an artsy and groundbreaking Hollywood community since he began to land acting roles in the mid 1950’s, Hopper directed Easy Rider in 1969. The film impacted international cinema and made a huge statement about freedom and America during the Vietnam War and won at Cannes in 1969. His filmmaking career continued, but he always shot photos, particularly concentrated in the 1960’s, when the Nikon camera his wife Brooke Hayward gifted him hung prominently around his neck. Many friends jokingly called him “the tourist.”
Lacing together Hopper’s roles as an actor, husband, father and photographer, the images are a potent collection of art history in more ways than one. Not only do his photographs provide visual connection to the conflicted times of the 1960’s when artists like Hopper and his friends created art and a scene around the ignition of consciousness in traditional America, but they show us what his life was actually like on a day to day basis.
As the paradigm of consciousness changed society and community for the better, the art scene grew. His relationships with artists Andy Warhol, Jane and Peter Fonda, and Robert Rauschenberg flourished during a new decade when artists were trying to liberate humanity. The beautiful “Kissing Booth” offers such a link, mindful of breaking rules and causing a stir. “Terry Southern and Robert Fraser (on beach in Malibu)” peddles expansion, Southern holding open an upside down Barbarella picture book with the American flag staked and haunting behind them. “Peter Fonda and Robert Walker Jr. (with peacock)” is so candid, you are inside the spontaneity of the shot, while its subjects are in their own worlds.
It’s been ten years since the unofficial Mayor of Venice left us. Before his passing he remarked, “While people will always remember me as an actor and for Easy Rider, I want to be remembered as a photographer, not just as an actor who took pictures.”
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