Julian Schnabel talks about Dennis Hopper show at MOCA, and his vision of America

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Last week I joined Julian Schnabel at MOCA while he was overseeing the installation of ‘Dennis Hopper Double Standard,’ which he curated for the museum.

At times, the artist, who was friends with Hopper since the late ‘80s, seemed caught off guard by the fact that Hopper had died in May. He referred to him in present tense more than the past. ‘I thought that Dennis was actually going to be here with us when we did this,” he said. “Every 30 minutes or so it hits me that he’s not.’


The highlight was sitting down with Schnabel in the show’s central gallery, the heart of the show. He has stacked more than 150 photographs by Hopper in rhythmic groupings on the walls, which in some sections look like film strips and altogether feel like a big photo collage.

Schnabel sees the grouping as an expansive, inclusive Whitmanesque portrait of America from California to New York — “actors mixed with painters, Hells Angels mixed with Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King mixed with bullfighters.”

Bringing together the high and low, famous and forgettable, beautiful and ugly, has a Beat feel to it, added Schnabel, who offered that the entire show could have been called “On the Road.”

“There is so much traveling going on in the work,” he said, pausing now before a Diebenkorn-like abstract landscape in another gallery. “Not only was Dennis an anonymous spectator looking out of a car window but someone who got somewhere, became the center of attention, and then tried to turn the camera around.”

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--Jori Finkel


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