Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album at the Royal Academy
The actor Dennis Hopper was best known as a real free spirit, who happened to survive considerable drug use in the 1960s and lived to make some classic movies such as Easy Rider and Blue Velvet. Hopper was also a successful artist, and as this exhibition demonstrates, a talented and instinctive photographer. He had an extraordinarily productive time in the 60s, taking around 18,000 photographs within a few years. Later he moved on to painting and sculpture, but left a considerable photographic legacy behind. This collection is created from 400 original prints from 1961 to 1967, which were exhibited once in 1970 and rediscovered after Hopper’s death in 2010.
The prints are all black and white and fairly small at around ten by six inches on board, making them precious artefacts from a vanished slice of time. Hopper’s photographs benefit from him having had the fabulous combination a great eye, a creative compulsion, and a life that mixed with many of the coolest and most artistic characters of the time. Hopper knew many other artists and actors well, and turned his camera onto Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, creating iconic images. Hippies dancing in the park, Martin Luther King speaking: Hopper was in the right place at the right time.
The range of the photographs also betrays Hopper’s true artistic spirit. He found inspiration in the streets as well as on film sets. Studies of peeling paint and graffiti walls show their graphic, abstract qualities. Many portraits were taken spontaneously but manage to capture the essence of a person in a glance. Hopper had an unerring sense of what makes a good composition and what the viewer’s eye actually enjoys looking at. Shown with a large projected clip of the Easy Rider film, the audience is left with a great feel for Hopper’s endless quest for creative freedom and expression.
Exhibited in Britain for the first time, this belated debut marks Dennis Hopper’s place in the history of photography.
Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is at the Royal Academy until 1st October 2014. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.