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Dennis Hopper: Rennaissance Rebel

Once spurned by Hollywood and nearly destroyed by drugs, Dennis Hopper has resurrected his life and his art.
Elizabeth Snead
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01

(continued from page 9)

"Like me, Dennis's art grows out of alienation and the theme of frustration in modern life. Dennis always responded to city anxiety, graffiti, etchings on walls expressing the frustration of urban life. That still turns him on and really rings his bell."

Hopper later lost his first Ruscha in a divorce. "I had one of the earliest Pop Art collections: Jasper Johns, Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella. Today it would be worth $100 million but most of it has ended up in German museums."

A retrospective of Hopper's own art is headed for European museums. He's been working for more than a year on the retrospective of his life's work -- sculpture, painting, photography -- that will open on February 6 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The show moves to Vienna for the summer, then travels to Rome, Berlin, Paris, New York, Boston and San Francisco, perhaps ending at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.

Hopper says the preparation for the exhibit is overwhelming. "It's more work than any movie I have ever directed."

He's even re-creating pieces burned in the 1961 Bel Air fires, others that were destroyed when another angry ex-wife (or two) turned the sprinklers on them.

Fire and floods? Sounds positively biblical.

"Yeah," Hopper says, grinning at the analogy. "I think there were locusts, too. But I can't remember!"

Hopper's sprawling Venice complex includes two loft studios and an enormous metal silo -- a kind of modern art bunker, which houses Hopper's paintings and photography as well as an impressive $8 million collection of works by Ruscha, Julian Schnabel, Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Serra, George Herms and Warhol.

Hopper's home, like his life, is a work in progress. This afternoon, armies of workmen are dismembering old Mexican tiles by the front door and laying down mountains of fresh green sod around the new pool.

"When I was still in rehab, the doctor suggested I leave Taos and come back to reality." Hopper laughs. "Reality? In L.A.? Anyway, Venice was the only place in L.A. I could remember enjoying because all my painter and poet friends lived here."

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