Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Dennis Hopper One Man Show: 1936-2010

Left to Right: Bruce Conner and Dennis Hopper, 1973

In 1967, Conner stole the name of his friend, Dennis Hopper, and used it to present 26 of his own collages. Hopper was ignorant of the plan and so was Conner's art dealer. The act raised many questions including who the work belonged to, who would receive the money upon its sale, would people confuse Conner's work with Hopper's own art, and so on.

A Bruce Conner collage in "The Dennis Hopper One Man Show"

This also ties in with my family's relationship with Dennis Hopper dating back to the mid 1950s in San Diego, California. In 1954, a mutual friend of my father's and Dennis Hopper drove them both to school. Hopper was a year ahead of Dad at Helix High School (and was voted Most Likely to Succeed in Dad's yearbook). I can hear Dad imitating Hopper's voice right now when he said, "Why do we always have to pick up this asshole?" pointing to Dad in the backseat. No love was lost between them.

One of my favorite articles of clothing is a belt Dad wore in high school. I can't help but imagine that he had it on at least once when riding in the back of the car with Dennis Hopper in the front seat. I wore that belt today thinking about Hopper's death and my father's past. Incidentally, they both shared the same birthday though Dad was one year younger.

Once in the early part of this decade, I bumped into Hopper at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. I was amazed at his short stature. How could I be taller than Frank Booth in Blue Velvet? Yet apparently, I was. Part of me wanted to say something to him but I walked away pretending that I had no idea that I almost literally ran into my father's high school arch nemesis.

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