Article by Anna Purcell in Berlin; Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012
Well-known actor turned photographer, Dennis Hopper‘s lifelong career contains an overwhelming amount of stunning images. His works, which are brazenly political, capture the vitality of American culture in the 1960s. The Lost Album, which is now on display at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, is actually a collection that was previously self-selected by Hopper for a 1970 exhibition at the Fort Worth Art Center Museum, Texas. However, the images were stored away afterwards, eventually forgotten. It was not until his recent death in 2010 that the images were rediscovered.
The exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau is closely established on his original 1970 installation in Fort Worth. The prints reflect the original sizes. There are only slight variations. Eleven of the original prints are believed to have been lost. Additionally, the new exhibition has an extra nineteen prints that complement the original 429. These nineteen images were taken along to the first Fort Worth show, but never exhibited.
Dennis Lee Hopper was born in Kansas in 1936, and later moved to California with his family in the 1950s. He was signed to Warner Brothers at the age of 18, soonafter bringing many roles and an influx of monetary success. However, in the ’60s, he began to struggle to find parts. This interruption is what led to his victorious foray into photography. He led an incredibly successful and distinct artistic career, challenging the limited notion of the modern artist. He died of cancer on May 29, 2010 at his home in Venice, California.
Hopper was a portraitist, capturing the likes of Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda. He was fascinated by urban life, finding inspiration in the sultry streets of Harlem and the rapid urbanization of Los Angeles as a modern metropolis. He traveled extensively, exploring the ruggedness of places like Peru and Mexico. Most notably, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, photographing arguably the greatest political movement in American history. He morphs the forgotten, the unsightly, and the real into overhwelmingly elegant photographs.
Dennis Hopper is the ultimate manifestation of the expressive cultural revolution of the 1960s. He perpetuated the eccentricity and boisterousness of the period, moving between mediums effortlessly. In addition to his photography, he was a poet, painter, sculptor, and actor. Accordingly, he was pivotal in the bourgeoning Los Angeles art scene of the time.
In regards to his work, Hopper once said: “The necessity to make these photos and paintings came from a real place – a place of desperation and solitude – with the hope that someday these objects, paintings, and photos would be seen filling the void I was feeling.” The Lost Album, with its collection of over four hundred vintage photographs, surely externalizes the emotional turmoil of the individual in the 1960s. It is impossible not to see a glimpse of the young Hopper through these images, and moreover, the progressive political and cultural spirit of the era.
Anna C. Purcell is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature. Originally from New York, she is currently living and studying in Berlin.