Dennis Oppenheim Conceptual Art Pioneer Dies Aged 72

Dennis Oppenheim Reading position for second degree burn: Stage 1 and stage 2 photo documentation of action at Jones Beach, Long Island, New York , 1970–1970

Dennis Oppenheim the pioneering conceptual artist has died of complications from liver cancer, he was 72. Oppenheim was born in 1938 in Electric City, Washington and studied at the California College of the Arts and Stanford University, before moving to New York in 1966.

He made a name for himself as one of the first land artists in the 1960s, and explored Body Art at the inception of the movement. Oppenheim’s work evolved into the first wave of Conceptual Art and was influential and embraced by a younger generation of artists. He was a contemporary of ground breaking artists including, Vito Acconci, Gordon Matta Clarke and Bruce Nauman. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally, including Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He stated,”The age of experimentation in art has ended, but if it has, it’s also created an opening for a new camaraderie of artists working in architecture and public space, making work with people in mind.

Functionality and design once problematic for fine artists are now where exciting things are happening. It’s a natural progression, but there’s still some resistance. I have fond memories of operating in a studio as a pure scientist, with absolutely no agenda other than to brainstorm art theory and develop new methods. I miss that. My public art does demand similar responses on my behalf to make it successful, but not at the level of penetration that studio work offers: what art can, should, and can’t be—all these heavy questions”.

“I have never been able to be what they call a signature artist,” he said in one of his final interviews, “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.”

Dennis Oppenheim 1938-2011

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