Dennis Oppenheim


          Docent Researcher: Susan Palmore


Biodata

Birth date: 1938 Electric City, Washington; Died 2011 New York City

Last residence: New York City

Education: School of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California BFA 1965

                    Stanford University, Palo Palo Alto, California MFA 1965           

Employment: Artist

 

Major Shows/Galleries

Oppenheim  exhibited work at galleries and museums around the world, with over 100 solo exhibitions as well as group exhibitions. His works have been displayed at  the Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC.     

 

Media/Techniques

Oppenheim was a conceptual artist He was one of the first conceptual land artists in the 1960s, and made his mark, too, on the Body Art and conceptual art movements. By the 1980s he was making complex constructions he called “machine works.” His art was always eclectic, taking on several manifestations, including installation, performance art, and video.

For the last several years, he had become particularly interested in large-scale public works, inventive sculptures that were a synthesis of art and architecture. “Performance Piece,” for instance, is a giant brick chimney, twisted into a knot, like something from a cartoon. The work is in Overland Park, Kansas. He said he wanted to elevate the human figure, often considered the domain of painters and sculptors, to architectural scale.

Contextual information

Oppenheim is likened to some of the most accomplished avant-garde conceptual artists of the last generation or two, including Vito Acconci, Gordon Matta Clarke and Bruce Nauman.

Coming out of the conceptual art movement, Oppenheim's early work was associated both with performance/body art and the early earthworks/land art movement.[5] From 1966-68, Oppenheim's ephemeral earthworks included shapes cut in ice/snow — such as "Annual Rings" (1968), a series of rings carved in the snow on the U.S.A./Canada border,[6] and "Gallery Transplant" (1969), in which he cut the outline of a gallery in the snow,[4] patterns cut in wheat fields with combine harvesters[6], and giant overlapping fingerprints representing the artist and his son Eric sprawled across several acres of a spoils field in Lewiston, NY.[7] He was included with Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson and Robert Morris in the important 1968 Earthworks show at the Dwan Gallery in New York.[5]

In 1968, Oppenheim became friends with Vito Acconci and he began producing body art,[5].,

In the early 1980s, he began his "machine pieces", complex, space-filling devices, and after the mid-1980s, he worked on the "transformation of everyday objects in art."[4] From the mid-1990s, he created a number of large-scale public art pieces in major cities around the world, some of which proved controversial.[4]

He received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was included in both the Venice Biennale and the Johannesburg Biennale in 1997. In 2007, he was recognized for Lifetime Achievement at the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale.[8]

Influences (historical/personal/political):

 

In 1968, Oppenheim became friends with Vito Acconci and he began producing body art,[5], such as "Reading Position for Second Degree Burn" (1970), for which he lay in the sun for five hours with an open book on his chest.[4] In the early 1970s, he was in the vanguard of artists using film and video in relation to performance.[4] Following his earthworks (1967-69) and body-works came the installations (from 1972 onwards), using puppets as their main theme (the harrowing piece "Attempt to Raise Hell" at the Pompidou Center).

Expressive Qualities:

Oppenheim is likened to some of the most accomplished avant-garde conceptual artists of the last generation or two, including Vito Acconci, Gordon Matta Clarke and Bruce Nauman.

Subject Matter/ Themes:

Other Comments/ Information: Dennis Oppenheim could make the rare claim of being a key figure in not one, not two, but three major movements: Earth Art, Body Art and Conceptual Art He was also an important innovator in video and performance art.

Anecdotal Information and Quotes

“No one is particularly prepared for the kind of artist they become,” Oppenheim told art critic Douglas Kelley in a 2009 interview.

“You’re there to be thrown around, not only by rambling, interfering concepts but by life itself

 

References:

 

1.  ^ a b Smith, Roberta (January 26, 2011). "Dennis Oppenheim, a Pioneer in Earthworks and Conceptual Art, Dies at 72". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/arts/design/27oppenheim.html. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 

2.  ^ Dunham, Mike (January 23, 2011). "Creator of controversial UAA sculpture dies". Anchorage Daily News. http://www.adn.com/2011/01/23/1663675/creator-of-controversial-uaa-sculpture.html. Retrieved January 24, 2011. 

3.  ^ a b c d e f g "Dennis Oppenheim, Restless Artistic Innovator, Passes Away at 72". ARTINFO. January 24, 2011. http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/36796/dennis-oppenheim-restless-artistic-innovator-passes-away-at-72. Retrieved January 24, 2011. 

4.  ^ a b c Nick Kaye, Art into Theatre: Performance Interviews and Documents, Routledge: 1996, p.57. ISBN 9783718657889

5.  ^ a b Inigo F. Walther, ed., Art of the 20th Century, Köln: Taschen, 2000, p. 545. ISBN 3822859079

6.  ^ G. Roger Denson (January 23, 2011). "Dennis Oppenheim, 1938-2011: The Man Who Made The World Nervous, Huffington Post."

7.  ^ Official website

8.   Wallin, Yasha. "Dennis Oppenheim Dies, Age 72". Art in America. http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/news/2011-01-24/dennis-oppenheim/. Retrieved 19 August 2011.

9.  Art Press, January 1993, Dennis Oppenheim: A Process of Discontinuity, by Eleanor Heartney

 

*Art Press, January 1993, Dennis Oppenheim: A Process of Discontinuity, by Eleanor Heartney

 

 

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