Dennis Oppenheim

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Dennis Oppenheim

American (1938-2011)

 

Dennis Oppenheim was an American conceptual artist whose work encompassed sculptural installation, performance, and film. Dealing with esoteric ideas of experiential phenomena, nature, and societal structures, Oppenheim’s work, like the works of his peer Robert Smithson, sought to break sculpture out of traditional modes and pose questions rather than signify aesthetic allegiances. “Most of my work comes from ideas. I can usually do only a few versions of each idea. Land Art and Body Art were particularly strong concepts which allowed for a lot of permutations,” he once reflected. “But nevertheless, I found myself wanting to move onward into something else.” Born on September 6, 1938 in Electric City, WA, he went on to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland before receiving his MFA from Stanford University in 1965. Moving to New York the following year, the artist began producing ephemeral projects within the landscape, as seen in his seminal piece Annual Rings (1968), which consisted of large circles carved from fallen snow. Oppenheim began experimenting with video art and performance during the 1970s, and made major contributions to the history of sculpture within public spaces throughout the remainder of his career.

 

Oppenheim’s work encapsulates the issues that populate contemporary art discourse from the 1960s to present. He concerned himself with the real world and real-time systems versus artifice; noncommercial, nonsalable works of art versus art as a product for the market; the uses of photography and text; and notions of site-specificity. In a series of works produced between 1970 and 1974, Oppenheim used his own body as his medium, exploring the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication. In 1981, his work moved in a new direction with the “machine pieces”—complex constructions that functioned as metaphors for the artistic process. By the mid-80s, he based his sculptures on the transformation of everyday objects. From the mid-90s until his passing, Oppenheim focused on the creation of large-scale, permanent structures that fused sculpture and architecture.

 

Oppenheim has been showcased in solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (1973, 1984); Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1975); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1983, 2003); Tel Aviv Museum, Israel (1984); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (1997); Montoro12 Contemporary Art, Rome, Italy (2013); Storm King Center, New York (2016); and the Art Institute of Chicago, IL (2016). Oppenheim’s work is held in public collections throughout the world, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; Tel Aviv Museum, Israel; Tate Modern, London, U.K.; and Samsung Foundation of Art and Culture, Seoul, Korea.

 

 

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1501 Walnut Street (Gallery)
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1501 Walnut Street (Gallery)
2880 Grand Avenue Suite 105 (Shipping Address)
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
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