American, 20th–21st century, male.
Born 1938, in Mason City or Electric City (Washington); died 21 January 2011, in New York City.
Painter (including gouache), pastellist, draughtsman, sculptor, installation artist. Multimedia.
Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Body Art, Land Art.
Dennis Oppenheim studied at the College of Arts and Crafts, California, and the University of Stanford. Until 1967, Oppenheim made sculptures related to the primary structures of Minimal Art, although they are comparatively small and he presented them in series of trapezoidal boxes and cylindrical trunks. From 1967, he lived and worked in New York City. In 1967–1968, he became a conceptual artist and a proponent of Land Art, working mainly out of doors and in large spaces. He then documented his operations by means of photographs accompanied by texts and plans. Great care was taken with the graphic presentation of his actions, as the works themselves are largely ephemeral. He mowed undulating lines in fields, traced paths through cultivated land and snowfields, and in New York he spread rectangles of salt in the city’s streets. He also worked in the sea, spreading pigment in the water, then covering the surface with burning petrol and meticulously photographing the results. These experiments led the Yale Faculty of Architecture to commission from him plans for the sculptural use of excavations created by road building. He made practical volumes consisting of mounds, depressions, and steps that could be climbed between them. In 1969, after befriending artist Vito Acconci, he experimented with Body Art, often subjecting himself to violent physical alterations such as sunburns. Oppenheim’s use of his own body explored the connection between a work and its site, using the physical body itself as not only a medium but a place. During the 1970s, he was extremely prolific, creating installations that included puppets representing himself with animals and various objects that related to the events and worries of his own life. The late 1970s series ...