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Uneasy Rigor: Dennis Hopper, curated by Julian Schnabel, at Jeffrey Deitch's MOCA/LA

April 16, 2010. News that the first exhibition planned by Jeffrey Deitch as the new director of MOCA/LA will be a survey of work by Dennis Hopper, curated by Julian Schnabel, must be greeted with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, Hopper is undeniably a prodigious, mythic presence on the American scene, mostly due to his extended Hollywood career as actor and director. He helped define the counterculture in Rebel Without a Cause and Easy Rider, and raised the stakes with fierce performances in Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. He is also an early and important member of the West Coast art demimonde, friendly with many of LA's more radical practitioners, including Wallace Berman, Ed Ruscha and Billy Al Bengston. He started buying art in the late 1950s and owns one of the Warhol soup can paintings from the historic exhibition at Ferus Gallery, among a varied and extensive collection that includes Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as Schnabel.

Julian Schnabel is not Fidel Castro

CBS News featured a 12 minute segment on 60 Minutes last night (Sunday, December 7, 2008) dedicated to Julian Schnabel. The segment was generally respectful, fair minded and generous - some might even say fawning - examining the artist's childhood, career, painting and film making. The central interview, conducted by Morley Safer, took place in Palazzo Chupi, the great pink elephant that Signore Julian has erected on the banks of the Hudson River in the West Village.

The palazzo has engendered some controversy lately, but there was no critique of it offered in this segment, no mention of the several community groups aghast at its ostentation, color, and invasive presence, no discussion of the several unsold units in the building, which Schnabel has developed with his own money and in his own image, a veritable labor of love. This subject is carefully skirted, as any recent mention has caused Schnabel to become confrontational and visibly agitated. But then Safer "dares" to cite critic Robert Hughes, who famously baited Schnabel during the 1980s, calling him untalented, bombastic and supremely egotistical. This proves too much for Schnabel, who lashes out at the grandfatherly Safer and does not forgive him for the remainder of the interview.

You can access the contretemps above at 8:00 through 9:30, with a transcript below from CBC News:

"Speaking of critics, your old nemesis Robert Hughes once said that you are to painting what Stallone is to acting," Safer remarks.

"Is this really what you want to do?" Schnabel asks. "I mean Robert Hughes is, he’s sort of like a guy, a bully in a bar that’s sitting around waiting for somebody to trip on a banana peel."

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