Art Review: (Not So) Easy Rider


Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, curated by the Royal Academy of Arts: seen June 27, 2014

Dennis Hopper is probably best known for his acting roles during the ’70s: from Easy Rider to Blue Velvet, these roles were typically rebels or edgy characters, highlighting the drug-fueled world that Hopper existed in during that time period.

What many people may not know is that he used his director’s eye on a still camera as well. Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album is an exhibit of over 400 of his photographs taken during in the 1960s, arranged similarly to the exhibit Hopper curated in 1970.

Not all of the photos are catching. There’s a wide range of subjects, from intimate celebrity shots such as one of Paul Newman to photos in a billboard factory. But you can see Hopper’s director’s eye in each shot: picking angles that give the subject a new perspective.

photo by Dennis Hopper
photo by Dennis Hopper

You can also see the influence of fellow artists Andy Warhol and Merce Cunningham (who appear in some of the photos as well) as some of the photos (like the one of Dean Stockwell above) take the medium of photography and twists it on its head.

However, it’s the historical ones that really draw the eye. From a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. giving a speech to photos of a group of Hell’s Angels, Hopper’s eye gives you a true sense of being there in the moment. My personal favorite was a photo of a group of people in a car waiting to go to the march on Selma. The anticipation – both good and bad – of what they’re about to go do is clear on everyone’s face. It is both historical and artistic, and an eye into a time in American history that – for better or for worse – is not as far away as we think.

The exhibit is a touch on the pricey side if you’re not interested in Hopper or that era, but well worth it if you are. The exhibit also has daily screenings of Easy Rider and The Last Movie.

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album runs until October 19, 2014, at the Royal Academy. For more information, visit the Royal Academy of Arts website.