In the late 1980's and early 1990's my partner Franco Palazzolo and I edited and published HYPE Magazine in New Yorks East Village
. A money losing labour of love, we are am now putting all of the articles from issues one to twelve nto the public domain. This interview was originally published in HYPE NYC
, issue number one, April 1990.
The following interview with the internationaly renowned artist Dennis Oppenheim was inspired from his recent exhibition at the John Gibson Gallery, 568 Broadway, NYC. May 1990
by Franco Palazzolo, HYPE Art Editor
F.P. Is there a direct or indirect way in which you derive your ideas? Describe the way you decipher and decode society to make tangible pieces.
D.O. I'm basically laying out on the table, information I learned in doing. And not only learned in doing but learned in living. Much of what I'm doing here is being extrapolated from things that happened to me. So we're getting, a person who understands how he makes physical. Or how he confronts and digests the imagination.
F.P. So these sculptures here, are as close as they can tangibly be.
D.O. Yeah ,the mind is almost like fingers . The work (sculptures) wants to touch, I want to touch the space with this work as if its as immediate as you are.In other words, this is not postured! This work doesn't want to be postured! That is, it doesn't want to be something that you could do or not do. It wants to be something that you pretty much have to do. It wants to be the thing thats right on the brink of your mind. And the next show wants to be the the same thing. In other words, the work wants to be or should be or has to be, all you can do at that time. There shouldn't be any manipulative vituosity... Basically I'm three dimensionalizing my immediate state, in which I'm sensing, viewing and understanding things.
F.P. Well take your "two objects'" piece where the two chairs are fucking each other, yet its not a pornographic image, its clever, it talks about the censorship issues that are going on today . The same with the Ragedy Ann dolls fucking, but its not just so blatantly graphic and obvious. Its humorus and subversive.
D.O. Yeah, I think that its a delicate line. The feeling is quite often that...if you want to be a conduit to external impulses, you cant just tell yourself to be a conduit....
F.P. It looks to stagey then
D.O. Well it just doesnt work!
F.P. The mechanical aspect of the"chair" and "Ragety Ann" pieces adds a three fold to the sexual act. I mean, it has a real semiotic edge to it, its more coded. Especially using the sawsall's for the mechanical motion of the Ragety Ann dolls fucking.
D.O. Well ya know, these things are instinctual.
F.P. You can tell these elements werent overtly planned.
F.P. The mechanics are such an intrinsic part of them. That it made these pieces more of a loaded gun.
D.O. ... Good works, quite often leave alot of room for not only you to wollow in, but other artists. There is alot left, spin-off we call it . Like the chairpiece, these two objects engaging in that way. I mean You begin to think about style contamination, you begin to think about a violent almost biologically refrenced action given to inatimate objects, you begin to think of contorted biolgical systems and why are chairs doing this. And does that mean were going to get a little chair. Or is this raping style ?
F.P. With being a sculptor you can really shift gears very easily ?
D.O. Well, see if you leave the territory, if you dont strangle your work so That you reap everything you can from each piece and leave it. Sure you can go back.
F.P. Then it seems fresh again.
D.O. Im not much for development either,Im not big on development. Development, critics are always looking for development from one year to the next. Sometimes that can be a little dangerous. Development in the pure sense of the word is something that I dont feel myself striving for. What that means quite often is virtuosity. Traditionaly we would probably discuss, Oh this artist has really developed his ability to make these pictorial things much more credible. I'm mean you're talking about skill, skill is something that is a nebulas in artmaking, it is very dangerous, because finally unbenost to the artist in developing this skill. One leads himself into this blind alley. Instead of becoming fresher and in becoming more open, you're basically becoming myoptic. So development is something that has never been atributed to me. Nobody has said that my work is developing as much as, its continuing which is as it should be. I MEAN, GOOD ART DOESNT HAVE TO BE DEVELOPED. HYPE.
May 15 1990, NEW YORK