‘Wild Man’ Hopper Gets Posthumous Exhibition at L.A. Art Museum

Dennis Hopper, whose 55-year movie career included memorable performances in “Easy Rider,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Blue Velvet,” was also an accomplished, versatile artist. Yet few Americans have had a chance to see the late actor’s work -- until now.

The first major Hopper retrospective at a U.S. museum is on display at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art through Sept. 26. Titled “Dennis Hopper Double Standard,” the exhibition at MOCA’s warehouse-like Geffen Contemporary space is curated by artist Julian Schnabel, who was a friend of Hopper’s.

“You’re never a prophet in your own country,” Schnabel said during a press conference at the museum. “Dennis was a sponge and conduit for so many things.”

Hopper died of prostate cancer on May 29, six weeks before the show opened. He was 74.

His eclectic artwork included assemblages, abstract paintings and digital photographs created over six decades. The exhibition includes his final piece, a life-sized fiberglass statue of himself as a cowboy completed this year.

“I know my father would be extremely proud,” said Marin Hopper, the daughter who manages his collection.

As an artist, Hopper is best known for his photographs, which include black-and-white images from the 1960s that stretch almost to the museum’s ceiling.

Freedom Rider

They provide a window into an extraordinary life. Hopper campaigned for civil rights with the Freedom Riders in Alabama, hung out with Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and practiced archery on a Malibu beach with a bikini-clad Jane Fonda.

“It was said he was crazy or a wild man -- and maybe he was,” said Schnabel, wearing a bright green flannel shirt and purple sweatpants.

The Hopper show also marks a debut for Jeffrey Deitch, the former New York gallery owner and art consultant who was named director of the financially troubled MOCA in January.

Deitch said the Hopper production, along with a planned exhibition on graffiti art, reflects a desire to “open up to a more diverse community.”

The Hopper show moves to Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum this fall.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net.

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