Dennis Oppenheim – Parallel Stress, ten minute performance piece, 1970
Intended partly as a protest against the minimalist fixation on the essence of the object, this piece tested the capacity of the artist’s body to suspend itself from fingertips and toes between two masonry walls. The performance repeated the same position on the stomach in the notch between two gravel hills. Photographs were taken at the greatest stress position prior to collapse.
From his Minimalist earthworks created in remote places in the 1960s to Pop-Surrealist public sculptures for urban settings in the 1990s and 2000s, Dennis Oppenheim was dedicated to the proposition that art should be open to the world rather than cloistered in galleries and museums. So it is appropriate that he should be this year’s featured artist at the Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley, where sculptures by Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, Louise Nevelson, Alice Aycock and scores of other artists dot the beautiful, 500-acre landscape of hills, fields and forest.
His works branch in a number of directions, partly because they provide so little information. They are almost violent, almost failing, almost private.. In one sense, they are metaphor without specifc reference -“they point to” psychological strata existing outside of ordinary language. They betray thier own desriptions. - Alan Sondheim – Individuals: Post Movement Art in America
Received this sad news via Alan Sondheim.
Dennis Oppenheim just died; he was one of the most amazing artists I’ve ever
known… A really sad day –
Roberta Smith (NYtimes) in her obit informs us that he was once married to Alice Aycock in the 80’s.
His career might almost be defined as a series of sidelong glances at the doings of artists like Vito Acconci, Mr. Smithson, Bruce Nauman, Alice Aycock (to whom he was married in the early 1980s) and Claes Oldenburg.
In Hawaii Dennis became a developer and was successful as an entrepreneur in the early 60’s.
(Thanks to Hal Lum for this information and a link to – An interview of Dennis Oppenheim conducted 1995 July- Aug, by Suzaan Boettger, for the Archives of American Art.)
And I think that my state was a state of mind that I harbored as a graduate student at Stanford, was one that is not unfamiliar today and found in lots of young people. The feeling was that art is what you don’t know. Everything else is art history.
Sol LeWitt was dealing with his systematic units of and his grids, and there was already a ray of material out there that one could think about. Smithson was extremely catalytic because he was writing about the real world. His writing was enormously catalytic, I think, at that time. I found that very exciting. There was also an article by Michael Freed, talking about minimalism approach in theatricality, which seemed interesting at the time, too.
B: Did you ever read a lot?
DO: Not a great deal. Not as much as many people. What I found is that it got me too excited. I mean, stuff that I liked — it overly stimulated me. Like if I would read James Joyce, or if I would read or , or even poets like Charles or even people like Dylan Thomas who are odd, or even contemporary poets like Ted Hughes. And then books like — I like this Austrian guy who made . His name is Bernhardt. Thomas Bernhardt, who was influenced by Becker. And then some of the French structural writing. French and , and some of the stuff by American writers. Yes, Beckett would drive me crazy. I can’t even read him now. He’s so good — so good.