Dennis Hopper: Rebel Artist


Dennis Hopper was a beautifully creative freak. So in many ways walking round the Hopper exhibition at London Royal Academy triggered loads of cultural memories. Hopper was perceived as just another actor – albeit one with hippie/countercultural proclivities – but with this show raises Hopper to the level of cultural totem. And we think the promotion is justified.

The show, in über posh Mayfair is strangely jarring with the surroundings. It featured over 400 prints from the period between 1961 and 1969 when photography as he said, was ‘his only creative outlet’. This was before he got the gig of directing Easy Rider – a job that sealed his future as a denizen of the left-field Hollywood arterati. The subject matter is the outsiders – from downtown LA bums to Abstract expressionists like Ed Ruscha and Robert Rauschenberg – to a gallery of hippie freaks, bullfighters and other folk from the fringes.

If you’re even remotely interested in the Hells Angels/Biker scene of the 1960s – then you have to go and look at Hopper’s amazingly intimate take on the biker. Under Hopper’s lens the biker folk he was hanging around with become the ultimate countercultural icons. These are some of the most intimate documents of the scene that we have ever come across. A highlight for me is the projection of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, which, when you see it in context of the photographs and transmuted into an art installation – looks every bit the hymn to the Great American Road that it was always supposed to be.

Get along and see the exhibition as soon as you can.

Image Credit:
Dennis Hopper Double Standard 1961
Photograph © Dennis Hopper, Courtesy The Hopper Art Trust