Friday, October 1, 2010

Still Dancing dedication

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29, 2010 - Dennis Oppenheim's Still Dancing will be dedicated this Saturday, October 2nd at 8:00 pm at Mill Square within Toronto's Distillery Historic District. The dedication will occur as part of Toronto's annual celebration of contemporary art Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto, this year marking its fifth anniversary. Jamie Goad, a Partner at the Distillery Historic District, said "We are thrilled to formally introduce Still Dancing to the City of Toronto and are honoured to have Dennis Oppenheim in attendance at the official dedication ceremony on October 2nd."

The sculpture consist of a 38-foot chimney-like structure above a chamber formed by half circular arcs that elevate the chimney and allow people to enter under it. Angled down from the chimney is a massive spiral configuration made of perforated stainless steel. It encloses a pulsating, eighteen foot diameter frozen tear drop shape representing a liquid formation from a distillery. The spiral and tear drop shape are ignited by light operating in multiple directions on the surface of the structure.

The artist described the project in a recent conversation:
"Still Dancing" is a combination of sculpture, architecture and theater. By combining these art forms into one work, which derives content from an association with early distillery images and their alchemical apparatus, one encompasses a work which incorporates the extraordinary transformative drama inherent in the distillery process.

Dennis Oppenheim was awarded the commission by the DHD Public Art Program jury. It was commissioned in connection with a future mixed use development near the art site.The landmark district is becoming a vibrant place to live, work and create, as well as visit and enjoy.

Still Dancing is the second of six public projects which have been or will be completed this year. Pathways to Everywhere was installed in the lobby of the Jamieson Building in Calgary in January. Three outdoor commissions in the western United States will be finished in the coming weeks; Light Chamber for the new Denver Justice Center, Radiant Fountains for the Bush International Airport in Houston and Paintbrush Gateway, at the entrance to the Arts District in Las Vegas. Falls, a fountain sculpture, will be installed in Busan, Korea in mid-October.

Dennis Oppenheim
has exhibited work internationally in galleries and museums worldwide since 1968. A major retrospective was organized by the Musee d'art Contemporain in Montreal in 1979. It traveled across Canada, Toronto then Winnipeg and Vancouver.

In 2007 he was recognized for Lifetime Achievement at the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale. The controversial work included in that show, Device to Root out Evil was recently installed in Calgary, Canada

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Light Chamber dedication

If sculptors could touch on functionality and the social realm they would be elevating sculpture to a more powerful idiom.


DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 28, 2010 - Dennis Oppenheim's newest public project Light Chamber will be dedicated Thursday, September 30,at 5:30 pm at the Denver Justice Center, followed by a reception inside the Cisneros Jury Assembly Room. Commissioned by the city with four additional public artworks for the new justice campus in 2007, Light Chamber is the largest public art commission in the history of Denver.

Dennis Oppenheim spoke about his approach to the project and described its form in conversation recently:

"I chose to focus on what is called the judge's chamber, a place where a person's life can change drastically, for instance, from freedom to incarceration. My Light Chamber is a giant complex that can be entered and walked through, involving curved walls (some as high as fifty feet) that result in a vortex which completely encloses the viewer. The general configuration is similar to a flower opening up, with different petals made of examples of different flower species."

The event is free and open to the press and the public, but space is limited. To attend, please RSVP to Mary Valdez at 720-865-4313 or

Light Chamber is the first of four public projects finished this fall. Dennis Oppenheim's Still Dancing for the Distillery District in Toronto will be celebrated Saturday October 2nd, Radiant Fountains in Houston and Paintbrush Gateways in Las Vegas will be completed this month.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview in Desert Companion

Gateway to optimism: An interview with Dennis Oppenheim
Story by Kirsten Swenson

Dennis Oppenheim on a Las Vegas aesthetic, the mystique of art-making and those giant paintbrushes

Desert Companion:
When many people think of Dennis Oppenheim, they think of your iconic body works from the 1970s - especially Parallel Stress and Reading Position for a Second Degree Burn (that eschewed the art object). How did you move from this to monumental public sculpture?

Dennis Oppenheim: I have never been able to be what they call a signature artist. 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. But nevertheless, I found myself wanting to move onward into something else. This can be dangerous, because the urge to move is not always coupled with a transcendent idea - you can move backwards.

In other words, the urge to constantly seek new territory is not often joined with the development of original concepts. It is as if the urge to change runs rampant for its own sake. Some speculate that these conditions are present because artists fear resting. They fear periods of non-production, they want to keep going.

DC: There is concern among the Las Vegas arts community that paintbrushes are a literal, reductive representation of the arts. As your career attests, much contemporary art has nothing to do with painting. So why paintbrushes?

The image of a paintbrush immediately puts one in the orbit of an artistic arena. When titled and pointed upward with its stroke projecting outward into dark space, it could signify for some, the mystique found in art making itself, the mystery at the end of the brush, the journey into the dark.

To make this projected pathway the gateway to the Arts District could, again, mean to some that they are passing into the mystique.

One of the criticisms of this work was why didn't they hire a sign company to do a work to commemorate the Arts District? It's a good question, because art has taken a lot from neon design companies.

This project places an artwork in a city known for its signage and applauds its flamboyant use of these instruments. It celebrates Las Vegas, rather than placing some esoteric, ego-driven superficially, conjured artwork on the site.

DC: I understand that the paintbrushes weren't your initial proposal. What were your earlier ideas, and how did this commission evolve?

These projects usually stimulate many approaches. Some of them are found economically unrealistic. It is always a process of elimination in order to find a comfort zone.

In the early '40s as a child, I was easily attracted to roadside spectacles. They were my introduction to art. I couldn't get enough of the Sherwin-Williams paint sign showing the endless flow of color over the globe. I love having a work in Las Vegas, the land of spectacles.

DC: What are your thoughts on the role of the arts in Las Vegas - and how did these thoughts inform your sculpture?

DO: It would be nice to think that Las Vegas artists could ricochet their energies on each other, to produce a truly unique vision in the way that some cities occasionally do, like the L.A. Light and Space movement, the Chicago Hairy Who, New York Pop Art and Minimalism and Italian Arte Povera, centered around Turino. I feel that there is a strangeness and ample radiant energies occurring in the location that could legitimately combust into a Las Vegas school.

Dennis Oppenheim's Paintbrush Gateway is slated for completion this fall: two 45-foot tall steel paintbrushes have already been planted along the sidewalk on East Charleston Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas. When completed, the paintbrushes will emit beams of rainbow-colored LED light 2,000 feet into the sky, creating a "gateway" to the arts district.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Light Chamber Installation

September 10, 2010-

Following three years of planning the final installation of Dennis Oppenheim's commission for the Denver Justice Center is underway by La Paloma Fine Arts, Inc., under the supervision of the artist. Dates for the formal dedication will be announced by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs next week.

The sculpture, a commission for the Denver Justice Center, is one of five public art commissions at the Denver Justice Center Campus. Installation at the southwest intersection of Colfax and Elati, near the State Capital Building and the Denver Art Museum, has been ongoing since the week of August 16th.

The title "Light Chamber," comes from two sources: the judge's chambers, and light which is a metaphor for enlightenment. Oppenheim was inspired by the people who work in the courts and his concept was to create a sculpture to serve as a chamber or sanctuary for individual reflection on the plaza.

Transparent floral petal forms on an architectural scale will create an enclosure that fits the grand vision of a Justice Center while also evoking humanistic qualities. It will be a like a "quiet room" to be entered and experienced and to provoke contemplation and inspiration.

For more information on DOCA's Public Art Program, please call 720-865-4313 or visit

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oppenheim at MoMA

This past Sunday, August 1st, The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today opened to the public at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition, curated by Roxana Marcoci, brings together over 300 photographs, magazines, and journals, by more than 100 artists, from the dawn of modernism to the present. The broad collection of work surveys the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges the meaning of what sculpture is.

The exhibition includes two early Oppenheim photographic documentations of Land Art (
Annual Rings, 1968) and Body Art (Parallel Stress, 1970) as part of "The Performing Body as Sculptural Object," utilizing the role of photography in the intersection of performance and sculpture as context.

Annual Rings, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum's permanent collection, captures the juxtaposition of man-made national and temporal boundaries through a schemata of tree growth rings enlarged and transposed into the snow. The rings overlap and intersect the U.S.A./Canadian border, crossing both political boundaries and time zones and thus questioning these ordering systems .
Parallel Stress documents a ten minute performance from May 1970. The photographs capture Oppenheim's greatest stress position prior to collapse while positioned suspended on a masonry-block wall and collapsed concrete pier between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, and then the position resumed at an abandoned sump on Long Island. Parallel Stress is on loan for the exhibition from the artist.

"The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today" will be at the Museum of Modern Art from August 1st to November 2nd.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Oppenheim on Show, July 2010

This Thursday, July 1st, Off the Wall Part 1: Thirty Performative Actions will open to the public at New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition focuses on actions which displace the site of the artwork from an object to the body, acting in relation to, or directly onto, the physical space of the gallery.

The exhibition, curated by Chrissie Iles, includes Dennis Oppenheim's 1973 installation Echo which fills the the gallery walls with the image of a hand slapping the wall onto which it is projected accompanied by its sound, reverberating through the wall. The reverberating sound:
"suggests the phenomena of a sound passing through a solid. In this way it carries the physical reality of this act through this barrier to the other side into a space unavailable to sight." DO
First shown at MOCA San Francisco in 1973, Echo is now part of the Whitney's permanent collection.

The following day, Friday, July 2nd, another Oppenheim piece will be included in an exhibition opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Material Interchange for Joe Stranard, Aspen, Colorado (1970) will be on exhibit as part of Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography, which runs through February 13th of next year.

"Off the Wall Part 1: Thirty Performative Actions" will be at the Whitney Museum of American Art from July 1st to September 19th.
"Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography" will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from July 2nd to February 13th.