Oral history interview with Dennis Oppenheim, 1995 July-Aug
Oppenheim, Dennis, 1938-2011
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 130 p.
Originally recorded on 5 sound cassettes. Reformated in 2010 as 9 digital wav files. Duration is 6 hrs., 11 min.
Access Note / Rights:
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Dennis Oppenheim conducted 1995 July- Aug., by Suzaan Boettger, for the Archives of American Art. Interview of Dennis Oppenheim at his studio in New York on July 12 and August 2, 1995 by S. Boettger. Oppenheim speaks of growing up in Washington and California, his father's Russian ancestry and education in China, his father's career in engineering, his mother's background and education in English, living in Richmond El Cerrito, his mother's love of the arts, his father's feelings toward Russia, standing out in the community, his relationship with his older sister, attending Richmond High School, demographics of El Cerrito, his interest in athletics during high school, fitting in with the minority class in Richmond, prejudice and cultural dynamics of the 1950s, a lack of art education and philosophy classes during high school, Rebel Without a Cause, Richmond Trojans, hotrod clubs, the persona of a good student, playing by the rules of the art world, friendship with Jimmy De Maria and his relationship to Walter DeMaria, early skills as an artist, art and teachers in high school, attending California College of Arts and Crafts, homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s, working and attending art school, professors at art school, attending Stanford, early sculptural work, depression, quitting school, getting married, and moving to Hawaii, becoming an entrepreneur, attending the University of Hawaii, going back to art school, radical art, painting, drawing, sculpture, the beats and the 1960s, motivations, studio work, theory and exposure to art, self-doubts, education in art history, Oakland Wedge, earth works, context and possession, Ground Systems, Directed Seeding, Cancelled Crop, studio art, documentation, use of science and disciplines in art, conceptual art, theoretical positions, sentiments and useful rage, Robert Smithson and earth works, Gerry Shum, Peter Hutchinson, ocean work and red dye, breaking patterns and attempting growth, body works, drug use and hippies, focusing on theory, turmoil, Max Kozloff's "Pygmalion Reversed," artist as shaman and Jack Burnham, sync and acceptance of the art world, machine works, interrogating art and one's self, Vito Acconci, public art, artisans and architects, Fireworks, dysfunction in art, periods of fragmentation, bad art and autobiographical self-exposure, discovery, being judgmental of one's own work, critical dissent, impact of the 1950s and modernism, concern about placement in the art world, Gypsum Gypsies, mutations of objects, reading and writing, form and content, and phases of development. Oppenheim also recalls American Graffiti, Richard Serra, Nathan Olivera, Keith Boyle, Artforum, Michael Fried, John Gibson, Robert Morris, Rene di Rosa, Allan Kaprow, Richard Long, Hamish Fulton, Alanna Heiss, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Chris Burden, Mario Salvio, and Bruce Nauman.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Dennis Oppenheim, 1995 July-Aug. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Transcript available online.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011) was a sculptor from New York, N.Y.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for this interview was provided by the Horace N. Goldsmith Foundation.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001