Hopper dines in Taos

Post by M. Nye. Photo by Lisa Law. Artist Ron Davis at left.

Dennis is offering a few introductory remarks re: his show, “Hopper at the Harwood,” to a crowd of art lovers whove shelled out $175 per for the pleasure, and dinner after. Denniss show (with catalogue and essay by the estimable Dave Hickey) is hot. And how could it be otherwise, featuring some of his own work (much better than you think) and that of five formidable artist friends who share his long-time LA-Taos connection “” Ken Price, Larry Bell, Ron Davis, Ron Cooper and Dean Stockwell?

Dennis looks tiny and is charming, self-effacing and brief. He notes that he “ran into these bums in the early “˜60s when they were breaking all the rules,” and theyve all been friends ever since. (Lucky, one reflects, in the perfectly installed exhibition. And what an odd place Taos is, or was.)

Dennis says he originally wanted to have a show with his favorite New Mexico artists “”Andrew Dasburg, Georgia OKeeffe, R.C. Gorman (!), these fellows, et al “” but it came down to this and with the ostensible hook of the forty year anniversary of the release of the film “Easy Rider” (filmed partly, of course, in Taos, with hippies, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Karen Black and directed by Dennis), and the hopefully promoted and marketed “Summer of Love” in Taos with attendant exhibitions and events.

Dennis concludes that this show is not about him, and that if it has gotten some media sizzle “” which it has and will “” its only because hes a movie star, etc. etc. Nice.

But the fact is Dennis was an active participant, documenter, supporter and creator of an art scene in LA from pre-Ferus Gallery, to this present incarnation as curator at the Harwood Museum. And the fact is hes always had a keen, canny aesthetic eye and sensibility, and his stuff, and that of his friends here, is proof.

And its also true that when he brought his dystopian vision to Taos in 1969, right into the belly of the Anglo-artist beast, next to the Pueblo under the mountain, into the house that Mabel (and Tony) built, everyone from Bell and Price to Donald Rumsfeld and Julia Roberts came following.

Denniss show reminds us of the transcendent power of fine art and serious artists even as there is a trace of melancholia in the air. One reflects over dinner that the “Summer of Love” was actually 1967 “” that 1968 was the “Summer of Hate,” and, if anything, 1969 the “Summer of Woodstock/ Nixon/ and The End.” One considers the “Devolution of Dennis” from “counter-culture” bad boy to neo-con, Bushie Republican front man for Cadillac, Ameritrade, and American Express; like a prodigal son returning to the faith and pieties of his fathers in the cattle town of Dodge City, Kansas, on the Great Plains, along the Santa Fe Trail. Western, ruggedly individual, conservative, contrarian. You couldnt make it up.

And one considers the hippies, and their apolitical, narcotized hedonism, nihilism and narcissism, and how so many of them, over time, became real estate salesmen and developers.

And one recalls that Dennis and Peters “Easy Rider,” far from being any “celebration” of peace and love and the “˜60s, was actually the death notice for the era.

As Captain America says to Billy:

“We blew it, man. We blew it.”

Bummer. What a buzz-kill.

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