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Jasper Johns, Moratorium (from the personal collection of Dennis Hopper, with a letter from the publisher), 1969
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Moratorium (from the personal collection of Dennis Hopper, with a letter from the publisher), 1969
Linen-backed offset lithograph poster
Not signed, edition of 3000
24 1/2 × 30 1/2 inches
A linen-backed poster of the 1969 Jasper Johns work "Moratorium," from the personal collection of Dennis Hopper.
"Moratorium" became an icon of the Anti-Vietnam War movement of the late 1960s, and is considered one of Jasper Johns' most important, controversial and socially significant prints. The legendary Leo Castelli Gallery commissioned the artist to create a print for the National Vietnam Moratorium led by students across the United States. A departure from his red, white, and blue flag paintings, Johns painted a toxic flag—a national symbol poisoned by war. The flag is colored black, with sickly green stripes reminiscent of military camouflage. A ghoulish orange hued field filled with blackened stars is an allusion to the deadly Agent Orange herbicide used by the U.S. military in the 1960s, an emblem of the horrors taking place in Vietnam. In the center of the painted flag was a single white dot representative of a bullet hole. One of the most interesting qualities of this print is that if one stares at the white dot in the middle for 30 seconds, closes their eyes, and opens them to look at a white piece of paper, a red, white and blue American flag will appear. When it was first created, Moratorium was considered un-patriotic and subversive by Nixonites and Conservatives. However, it was exactly works like this that would, more than four decades later, earn Johns a Presidential Medal of Freedom, which the Obama administration bestowed upon him in 2010.
Accompanied by two pieces of correspondence from the Vietnam Moratorium Committee to Dennis Hopper, housed in a manila folder. (We have watermarked them to avoid unauthorized copying). The first letter is dated January 26, 1970 and it is addressed personally to Dennis Hopper at his home address in Los Angeles from the Vietnam Moratorium Committtee's Speakers Bureau thanking him for support of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The second letter is dated March 19, 1970, and it begins, "After many months of low-key, grassroots organizing against the war, we feel it is time, once again, for dramatic protest. Therefore, on April 13-15 there will be a three day "Peace Fast" to demonstrate our deep moral commitment against the war in Vietnam." (the letter continues to request donations for the cause).
About Jasper Johns:
When Jasper Johns had his first one-person exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery — in 1958, at the age of twenty-seven — its impact was widespread and immediate. His work signaled a new direction for contemporary art, one that would lead away from Abstract Expressionism and forward to Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual art, and beyond. The Museum of Modern Art acquired four works directly from the show: paintings of targets, flags, and numerals (subjects Johns called “things the mind already knows”).
In the six decades since, Johns has continued to explore new symbols and images, building an extensive personal lexicon that is sometimes enigmatic but always unmistakably his own. A single painted motif might reappear decades later in a sculpture, a drawing, a print, or even in another painting. “My experience of life is that it’s very fragmented; certain kinds of things happen, and in another place a different kind of thing occurs,” he has explained. “I would like my work to have some vivid indication of those differences.”
Jasper Johns (b. 1930) grew up in South Carolina and moved to New York in 1953, where he met Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham. The artistic ideas of these four friends and sometime collaborators helped establish a new American avant-garde, redefining the role of artistic intent through the use of found imagery and chance. Johns’s work in particular has had a profound impact on American culture. He has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at museums around the world, including career surveys at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Royal Academy in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery
About Dennis Hopper
Dennis Lee Hopper (May 17, 1936 – May 29, 2010) was an American actor and film director. He is known for his roles as mentally disturbed outsiders and rebels. He earned prizes from the Cannes Film Festival and Venice International Film Festival as well as nominations for two Academy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Awards. Hopper studied acting at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and the Actors Studio in New York. Hopper also began a prolific and acclaimed photography career in the 1960s. Hopper had a supporting role as the bet-taker, "Babalugats", in Cool Hand Luke (1967). In 1968, Hopper teamed with Peter Fonda, Terry Southern and Jack Nicholson to make Easy Rider, which premiered in July 1969. With the release of True Grit a month earlier, Hopper had starring roles in two major box-office films that summer. Hopper won wide acclaim as the director for his improvisational methods and innovative editing for Easy Rider. The production was plagued by creative differences and personal acrimony between Fonda and Hopper, the dissolution of Hopper's marriage to Brooke Hayward, his unwillingness to leave the editor's desk and his accelerating abuse of drugs and alcohol. Hopper said of Easy Rider: "The cocaine problem in the United States is really because of me. There was no cocaine before Easy Rider on the street. After Easy Rider, it was everywhere". Besides showing drug use on film, it was one of the first films to portray the hippie lifestyle. Hopper became a role model for some male youths who rejected traditional jobs and traditional American culture, partly exemplified by Fonda's long sideburns and Hopper wearing shoulder-length hair and a long mustache. They were denied rooms in motels and proper service in restaurants as a result of their radical looks. Their long hair became a point of contention in various scenes during the film. Journalist Ann Hornaday wrote: "With its portrait of counterculture heroes raising their middle fingers to the uptight middle-class hypocrisies, Easy Rider became the cinematic symbol of the 1960s, a celluloid anthem to freedom, macho bravado and anti-establishment rebellion". Film critic Matthew Hays wrote "no other persona better signifies the lost idealism of the 1960s than that of Dennis Hopper".
Hopper had several artistic pursuits beyond film. He was a prolific photographer, painter, and sculptor. Hopper's fascination with art began with painting lessons at the Nelson-Atkins Museum while still a child in Kansas City, Missouri. Early in his career, he painted and wrote poetry, though many of his works were destroyed in the 1961 Bel Air Fire, which burned hundreds of homes, including his and his wife's, on Stone Canyon Road in Bel Air. His painting style ranges from abstract impressionism to photorealism and often includes references to his cinematic work and to other artists. Ostracized by the Hollywood film studios due to his reputation for being a "difficult" actor, Hopper turned to photography in 1961 with a camera bought for him by his first wife Brooke Hayward. During this period he created the cover art for the Ike & Tina Turner album River Deep – Mountain High (released in 1966). He became a prolific photographer, and noted writer Terry Southern profiled Hopper in Better Homes and Gardens as an up-and-coming photographer "to watch" in the mid-1960s. Hopper's early photography is known for portraits from the 1960s, and he began shooting portraits for Vogue and other magazines. His photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 civil-rights march in Selma, Alabama, were published. His intimate and unguarded images of Andy Warhol, Jane Fonda, The Byrds, Paul Newman, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Brown, Peter Fonda, Ed Ruscha, the Grateful Dead, Michael McClure, and Timothy Leary, among others, became the subject of gallery and museum shows and were collected in several books, including "1712 North Crescent Heights." The book, whose title refers to the house where he lived with Hayward in the Hollywood Hills in the 1960s, was edited by his daughter Marin Hopper. In 1960–67, before the making of Easy Rider, Hopper created 18,000 images that chronicled the remarkable artists, musicians, actors places, happenings, demonstrations, and concerts of that period. Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961–1967 was published in February 2011, by Taschen. German film director Wim Wenders said of Hopper that if “he'd only been a photographer, he'd be one of the great photographers of the twentieth century.” In The New Yorker, Hopper, as photographer, was described as "a compelling, important, and weirdly omnipresent chronicler of his times." Hopper began working as a painter and a poet as well as a collector of art in the 1960s as well, particularly Pop Art. Over his lifetime he amassed a formidable array of 20th- and 21st-century art worth millions of dollars, and he also became a respected dealer for a time, ultimately wielding substantial influence in the West Coast art scene.
Published by the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, Washington, DC
Property from the Life and Career of Dennis Hopper