Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011) was a conceptual and performance artist. Born in Mason City, Washington, Oppenheim studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and at Stanford University where he earned an MFA. His early works in the 1960s included large earthworks in which, for example, he cut patterns into fields of wheat and drew enlarged tree rings in snow. Many of these ephemeral works, documented with photography, emphasized the themes of change and process. Oppenheim also created a number of performance based body art works. For example, in Reading Position for Second Degree Burn (1970), Oppenheim spent five hours in the sun with a book on his chest to burn his skin with an outline of the book.
In the 1970s, Oppenheim began creating mechanical installations with moving parts. A series of works he called Factories, begun in 1979, consisted of large-scale Rube-Goldberg-like machines. Later, he incorporated fireworks into a series of constructions eponymously called Fireworks (1981-82). His work of the 1980s and 1990s included assemblages made of metal and other materials and Pop-Art-like sculptures of enlarged everyday objects.
Oppenheim’s graphic works comprise a relatively small part in his overall oeuvre. These works include a handful of artist’s books and portfolios. Oppenheim contributed to the conceptual exhibition-in-a-book, March 1969 (1969), also known as One Month, published by New York art dealer Seth Siegelaub, which featured text-based contributions from twenty-four artists including, in addition to Oppenheim, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Robert Morris. He also created a book entitled Flower Arrangement for Bruce Nauman (1970), which was included in the collaborative boxed set of artists’ books called Artists & Photographs. Oppenheim’s other graphic works include Projects by Dennis Oppenheim (1973), a portfolio of ten lithographs that document works the artist made between 1968 and 1972.
Dennis Oppenheim’s works are found in museum collections worldwide, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Tate Gallery, London.
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