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Sep 2014 Journal

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Art Notes

Max Weber New York (1912)
Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, at the Royal Academy until 19 October 2014, shows 400 photographs from that transformative era between 1961 and 1967, depicting the fleeting energy of the 1960s.
Selected for Hopper’s first major exhibition in Texas in 1970, the images were rediscovered only after his death in 2010. Taken with a Nikon F camera with a 28mm lens, a gift from his future wife Brooke Hayward, some are raw, edgy and casual as though anyone could have snapped them. But together they represent a portfolio of lost times. As a young actor at the beginning of his Hollywood career, drawn to the Los Angeles art world, Hopper encountered artists such as Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. While lacking Warhol’s sophistication, his interest in advertising billboards reflects the latter’s obsession with his own ad world.
Hopper photographed Allan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and the Grateful Dead rock band. He became obsessed with Hell’s Angels bikers, whom he saw as contemporary cowboys, representing escape from American culture and, in their grittiness, the rejection of the ‘American dream’. The images are swift and often messy – Coca Cola ads, graffiti and ‘Keep Out’ signs; the black people of Alabama; a US army truck, half in focus; American flags.
Hopper’s lens captures Martin Luther King’s speeches to an array of microphones; a hippy girl dancing with the slow seductiveness of Salome; a man weighing himself against a sign offering Blue Chip stamps; a sexy image of Paul Newman, a trick of light placing him in a latticework of nets; and a dancer posed in a snake costume.
Hopper began taking photos at the age of 18 when under contract to Warner Bros. He never made money from them. His subjects are snapped as they are dressing, posing, or with blurred faces. They range from speakers at Hyde Park to a Mexican bullfight. They are like collective stills from a transient and random life.
Hopper was born in 1936 in Dodge City. His directorial debut in Easy Rider attracted a huge youth counter-culture which would come to represent the 1960s for all time. Easy Rider itself heralded the road movie.
On the eve of its centenary next year, the Ben Uri presents the first British exhibition of Max Weber since 1913: Max Weber: An American Cubist in Paris and London, 1905-15 (until 5 October 2014).
Weber’s New York (1912), one of the 11 works shown, is more than a Cubist exercise: his towering edifices have a kind of menace, suggesting an emotional overcrowding of humanity. The Dancers (1912) offers another perspective: an angularity in the dancers’ momentum is less rhapsodic than anguished. With a touch of Picasso the figures meld and blend, yet also seem to self-parody. The dance becomes a grimace and it is this energy which is so exciting.
Matisse was his tutor but Weber makes few concessions to his former master’s preoccupation with colour and shape apart from a deceptively simple and charming graphite line drawing of him, which seems almost to flow from one line, and Apollo in Matisse’s Studio (1908), portraying the back of a male nude in viridian and ochre colours, while Matisse is a tiny figure in the background.

Gloria Tessler

Gloria Tessler

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