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Ace Gallery - Los Angeles
© Dennis Hopper; Courtesy Ace Gallery Los Angeles
By 1961, when Dennis Hopper was 25, his reputation as a bad boy had crippled his movie career, and hundreds of his paintings were lost that year in a fire that destroyed his Bel-Air home. So he turned to photography. Considering these setbacks as an actor and artist, which were exacerbated by substance abuse, it's not surprising that Hopper's photographs were haphazard. That's why they're good because they're both flip and intense, like everything else in his life.
Hopper made snapshots of unknown L.A. artists such as Ed Ruscha and Robert Irwin, who were to become almost as famous as he would be. When this 1962 picture was taken, Irwin was fiddling with the lighting in Billy Al Bengston's studio. Holding a lightbulb in his mouth and gesturing as if about to stick his finger in a socket, Irwin looks like someone who has just had a bright idea. In fact, about this time, he had.
It was in '62 that Irwin abandoned the Abstract Expressionism he had been imitating with his painting, a first step toward giving up the medium altogether and becoming a founder of California's Light and Space movement. Creating light effects in galleries or transparent sculptures in public spaces, Irwin would soon head down the path that would lead to his creation of the Getty garden in 1997.
[Originally published in West Magazine : Undated, p.14]