Review: Dennis Hopper, The Lost Album Exhibition at the Royal Academy London

 

Blogger’s Event, 27th June 2014

 

Bloggers received the VIP treatment at Burlington Gardens, part of the Royal Academy, for Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, with a welcome drink from Atelier Cafe on arrival and a talk from one of the show’s curators about the revolutionary times witnessed by Hopper in his short but intense career as a photographer.

Hopper got the snapping bug in 1961 when his future wife Brooke Hayward gave him a Nikon camera on his 25th birthday. Six short years and 18,000 shots later, Hopper put his camera down, never to take another picture again.

Hopper became interested in photography under the encouragement and mentoring of James Dean, whom he met while filming Rebel without a Cause (1955). He was at loose ends as his film career had hit a brick wall at the end of the 1950s so photography gave him a new outlet for his creativity.

 

Dennis Hopper Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964 Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com
Dennis Hopper, 
Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964
Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964

He was completely self-taught and, obviously, a natural using his own gut instinct for taking what I can only call “the perfect shot”. One of such perfect shots is the wonderful portrait of Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt (Couple in car, 1964). The image exudes seduction and voyeurism – and the couple’s charisma and sense of performance. Irving was a gallerist at North La Cienega, Los Angeles and he gave Andy Warhol his first solo show in Los Angeles, while Peggy was an iconic model and a pioneer of Vidal Sassoon’s “bowl” haircut.

The Exhibition

 

Over 400 images take you through some crucial historic moments in 1960s America from the Civil Rights Movement to the hippy counter-culture.

The display replicates the first photography exhibition that Hopper curated in 1970 – all the images follow the same sequence he chose.

The show opens with a series of photographs abounds with behind-the-scene shots of Hopper’s closest friends and Hollywood colleagues. Play “spot the celebrity” with Andy Warhol and Paul Newman.

There’s a section of more abstract pictures – all the images are black and white in the exhibition – with lights and shadows playing over concrete, textiles, torn posters on walls.

Pictures of hippies, Hell’s Angels and Los Angeles homeless people give you a glimpse of what was behind the overly-polished, glamorous California dream and what people wanted to ignore. The Sunset Boulevard riots pictures from 1967 are particularly striking.

All the prints are the original ones that Hopper at his own expense. Hopper was quoted as saying: “I never made a cent from these photos. They cost me money, but kept me alive”.

There’s a quote stamped on the wall that left a lasting impression on me and it’s a comment Hopper made about Easy Rider (1969): [Tweet “”The movie to me was about freedom and the responsibility that you have of being free” Dennis Hopper.”]

By the time he was working and directing Easy Rider, he had abandoned photography for good.

Am I allowed to call him the “original instagrammer”? Carrying his Nikon around his neck on a daily basis, he captured unique moments from the microscopic to the macro social/political/historic, from people living at the margins of society to people fighting against the rules of society and those (Hollywood actors) who were idolised by society.

 

REMINDER

 

Snap-happy instagrammers, beware: strictly no photography at the exhibition. PS: check out my instagram page @paolaenergya.

 

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, is at the Royal Academy of Arts, London 26/06/2014 – 19/10/2014. Organised in co-operation with The Dennis Hopper Art Trust.

 

The Royal Academy recommends the BFI retrospective Dennis Hopper: Icon of Oblivion throughout July 2014.

 

Picture: Dennis Hopper

Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964

Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm

The Hopper Art Trust

© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com