30 January, 2011

30 Jan - In Memory of Dennis Oppenheim

LAUNCHPROJECTS- Dennis Oppenheim, Conceptual artists, pioneer of earthworks and body art who made "made emphatically tangible installations and public sculptures that veered between the demonically chaotic and the cheerfully Pop," died on Friday in Manhattan of liver cancer. He was 72.*

We met him just once at Alanna Heiss' home at a dinner for James Franco after an opening at Heiss' latest venture since P.S.1, Art on Air. Oppenheim was clowning around in Heiss' bedroom in front of one of his works of art. He was charming and silly - almost giddy - and befriended us immediately upon learning of our mutual friend in Santa Fe, Thomas Ashcraft. Sitting in the room with such an iconic and fascinating artist who challenged so many notions and definitions of art throughout the decades I had to keep reminding myself that this accessible prankster was THE Dennis Oppenheim. His work can be tough to pin down and describe, so I will use the words of Roberta Smith for the New York Times:

"Many works involved moving parts, casts of animals (whole or partial), upturned or tilted building silhouettes and sound, water and fireworks, which on occasion prompted unscheduled visits by the fire department....He first became known for works in which, like an environmentally inclined Marcel Duchamp, using engineers' stakes and photographs, he simply designated parts of the urban landscape as artworks. Then, in step with artists like Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria and Lawrence Weiner, he began making temporary outdoor sculptures, soon to be known as land art or earthworks.

...Mr. Oppenheim's art-making could seem simultaneously driven and lackadaisical, fearless and opportunistic. Few of his contemporaries worked in a broader range of mediums or methods, or seemed to borrow so much from so many other artists. His career might almost be defined as a series of sidelong glances at the doings of artists like Vito Acconci, Mr. Smithson, Bruce Nauman, Alice Aycock (to whom he was married in the early 1980s) and Claes Oldenburg."

Oppenheim stands out for his impact and wholly original - often inconceivably rigorous - works of art in an era of artists who continually challenged the definitions and status quo of the traditional art world. He was one of the greats.

IMAGES: Oppenheim, "Device to Root Out Evil in Canada" 1991, Oppenheim at Heiss house (in front of his piece), 2010.
*Quote also from Roberta Smith, New York Times

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments!