TAOS, NM.- Dennis Hopper first set foot (or wheels, as the case may be) in Taos, New Mexico, in 1968, while directing one of the '60s most powerfully iconic visions, Easy Rider, a film that looked so real and felt so raw, (and sounded so good) it helped define a social movement--and, some may say, the way a nation saw itself.
For the next 15 years, Hopper pretty much made Taos home, taking up residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, continuing Mabel's tradition of hosting the best, brightest, and surely the most off-beat of his generation.
But before Taos, and before Easy Rider, Hopper had been part of the vibrant modern art movement forming in Los Angeles. As a chronicler of the scene, he worked as a photographer, and also collected the early work of his artist friends Larry Bell, Ken Price, Ron Cooper, Ronald Davis, and Robert Dean Stockwell, among many others.
Once Hopper established himself in Taos, however, a slow but steady migration of these LA artists began, drawing to Taos the third wave of internationally recognized artists after the "Taos Founders" (1898 - 1920s) and the "Taos Moderns" (1939 - 1950s).
To mark his years in Taos, his long-time friendships, and the 40th anniversary of the release of Easy Rider, The Harwood Museum of Art, in conjunction with Taos' "Summer of Love" celebrations, presents "Hopper at the Harwood," opening May 9th, featuring two exhibitions: one focusing on his work, "Selected Photographs and Paintings" and the other, "Forty Years of Friendship: LA to Taos," a curatorial expression with the work of the aforementioned Bell, Cooper, Davis, Price and Stockwell.
Aesthetically, Hopper is a significant American photographer, and the 13 images that make up "Selected Photographs and Paintings," most dating from the '60s, demonstrate his rich narrative ability with a single lens reflex camera. In the featured portraits there is fierce support and admiration for the individual, and the silver gelatin prints serve to demonstrate a convincing love, not only of his craft, but for those he photographed. Especially memorable is "Biker Couple" from 1961, a California classic.
Hopper continues to work in film and television and is currently a regular in the Starz TV series "Crash," being shot in New Mexico, and based on the Academy Award-winning movie. Last year, he was awarded France's Order of Arts and Literature for recognition of significant contributions to the arts and literature.
In October 2008, the Cinematheteque Francaise mounted a major retrospective of Hopper's work as an artist, actor, filmmaker and art collector. And he is the first living American to exhibit at the fabled Hermitage Gallery in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hopper currently shows in major art galleries and museums around the world, and though primarily known as an actor and filmmaker, he continues to make his mark as a painter and photographer.
The companion show, "Forty Years of Friendship: LA to Taos," features work collected by Hopper and pieces still in the collection of the artists. Larry Bell is represented with five pieces, spanning from 1962 to 2008, including his ground-breaking vacuum-coated and vapor drawing series. Ronald Davis' five pieces also span more than 40 years. Ron Cooper has nine pieces in the exhibit including "Tantric Vision" a powerful oil on canvas from 1991. Robert Dean Stockwell shows several paper collage works, and from Ken Price, acrylic, ink and colored pencil pieces.