(1/4/11: Some notes I wrote after visiting the Dennis Hopper show at MOCA last year. I had since re-watched most of my favorite Hopper movies -- Blue Velvet, Easy Rider, True Romance, Hoosiers, Speed and Apocalypse Now.)
He almost made it. 43 days and he would have seen how the world (ok, at least Los Angeles) had come to appreciate his art. Instead, fate with its usual sick sense of humor, decided otherwise. 43 days separated the day Dennis Hopper died (May 29, 2010) and the day (July 11, 2010) Dennis Hopper: Double Standard opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. After spending a couple hours at MOCA going through countless photographs, paintings and sculptures, I realized that he was a bigger loss to the artworld than most would appreciate. We know him from the 60's landmark film "Easy Rider" or as the crazy bomber in the 80's action-packed "Speed" or as the drunk assistant coach in the hoops classic "Hoosiers". I knew very little of Hopper's work outside of acting prior to my exposure to Double Standard and although, it's very impressive, I can only wonder what directions he would have taken his art if he did not have to do acting. At the end of the day, it's also sad to think you can distill a lifetime's worth of work in a warehouse-sized art exhibition but I think he will forever be in our collective consciousness like some cool, crazy uncle we see every once in a while.
When I visited, most of the visitors at MOCA Geffen Contemporary had this somber look, not very different from when you attend a funeral wake. I suppose almost everyone there knew of his death just 43 days prior to the show's opening. At the same time, a lot of people also had very surprised looks of amazement. Like going to the house of that crazy uncle for the first time and realizing that he had very special talents. Dennis Hopper, I hope you're as stoned as always, where ever you are. You're one of a kind.