The Lost Album
reviewed by Gary Levinson
When you think of the 1960s what kind of image forms in your mind? Is it one of hippies at a love-in, with warmth and flowers? It is said that with time people only remember the good. Dennis Hopper’s photos show us the other side of the 1960s a time he himself said was “a time when the world was on fire.”
These photos (450+) are part of a long-lost exhibition of his works taken between 1961 and 1967 and have only been displayed twice before: once in Fort Worth in 1970, and again in Washington D.C. in 1971. Hopper himself was the curator of these two earlier shows and this exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau tries to reproduce these earlier shows as closely as possible.
Dennis Hopper is of course best known as the director of and actor in Easy Rider, the 1969 film classic. He was also an enthusiastic photographer, using his camerato capture the scenes and people around him.
Being a famous actor, he was often surrounded by other famous people. A section of the exhibition is filled with his photos of the young artists and musicians who were bound to change society’s way of thinking, it’s appreciation of art, and society itself: Andy Warhol, Bruce Conner, Frank Stella, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, PeterBalke, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hemmings, Brian Jones, Michael McClure, RudiGenreich, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, etc.
But these famous people make up a relatively small part of the exhibition. Most of the show are photos of the un-famous people who he met, or portraits from his daily life, and some typically 60s geometric artistic shots.
His daughter Marin Hopper calls the show an “intimate experience” and the included photos as being “like [pages in] a diary”. Indeed these photos put one in the shoes of a person from the 1960s.
Absolutely, it was a time on fire: in the 1960s the Vietnam war was raging as were the corresponding protests and police repression. Also the 1960s were the cradle of the civil rights movement, and its associated demonstrations. Additionally, as I looked at these glimpses of 1960s life, I realized that there have been great stride made in personal hygiene since that time.
This exhibition is really a sobering time machine that takes the viewer 45 years back in the past, back to a time when the changes that took place brought a lasting significant change to society, and whose influence is still being felt.
There is also a detailed catalog of the exhibition available.
reviewed by Gary Levinson
© copyright 2012 Levinson