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By Aaron Rose
After losing himself in Taos, New Mexico, for 15 years, Dennis Hopper (1936–2010) returned to Los Angeles in the mid-’80s. In 1987, on the verge of directing Colors, Hopper made use of a Polaroid camera to document gang graffiti in Los Angeles. He was particularly drawn to the abstract shapes of overlapping paint that appeared when graffiti had been covered up or written over, reminding him, he said, “that art is everywhere in every corner that you choose to frame and not just ignore and walk by.”
The Polaroids presented for the first time in this book are proof of that observation. Hopper firmly considered himself an “abstract expressionist and action painter by nature, and a Duchampian finger pointer by choice,” subscribing wholeheartedly to the idea that “the artist of the future will merely point his finger and say it’s art--and it will be art.”
In turning the instantaneous, disposable nature of the medium of Polaroid film into pictures as deliberate and final as an image achieved by an artist painting on canvas, these images represent the first part of Hopper’s journey back to the world of photography, picking up where he had left off so many years before. This book is in many ways a companion to Drugstore Camera (2015), also edited and designed by Michael Schmelling, which presented Hopper’s personal photographs taken in Taos, New Mexico.