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DENNIS OPPENHEIM | 'IDENTITY STRETCH' | THE 'LAND ART' MOVEMENT
October 19th 2018
The late great Dennis Oppenheim (1938 - 2011) was a seminal American artist whose work helped define the history of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present day. With an oeuvre that spans conceptual, performance, sculpture, video, and photography, Oppenheim is perhaps best known for his ambitious public installations and as an early proponent of Earth works (also known as Land art), alongside Robert Smithson.
by Tessa Yee
NEWS FROM EYESTORM
Land art was a movement that represented a form of artistic protest against the seemingly merciless commercialisation of art at the end of the 1960s in America. The movement began with a group exhibition in 1968 titled ‘Earth Works’ at the Dwan Gallery in New York, which included works by Oppenheim, Smithson, Robert Morris and others. For Oppenheim and his contemporaries, Land art was a way of rejecting the traditional museum or gallery setting, creating monumental landscape projects in remote industrial sites that were beyond the reach of the commercial art market, and primarily dependent on photography and text to document their existence.

In 2000, Eyestorm was privileged to work with Oppenheim to create a set of six prints, which documented one of the artist’s pivotal Earth works - Identity Stretch (1970-1975). Astonishingly the prints had been forgotten about for almost 20 years, and today we are excited to be releasing them - a small edition of only 35, and a rare example of Oppenheim’s work still available to private collectors.
Dennis Oppenheim

Identity Stretch (1970-1975) , 2000

163(w) x 87(h) cm
64.17(w) x 34.25(h) inches
C-prints on Fuji and B&W photographic paper

Six prints each measuring 51 x 41cm / 20" x 16".

Signed by Dennis Oppenheim on front and edition number on verso
Edition of 35
PRICE (INCL. VAT)
£ 4,176.00
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Created in 1975 for Artpark, an alternative sculpture park in Lewiston, New York, Identity Stretch (1970-1975) was a large-scale, site-specific installation created from the images of the artist’s own thumbprints overlapping with that of his sons. Intended to be viewed from atop an expansive gorge - the Niagara Escarpment, Oppenheim’s installation was created by first enlarging the original impression of his own thumbprint and his son’s, and transferring them at a ginormous scale onto the Artpark landscape by the means of black tar Sprayed directly onto the ground. The tar, perhaps a reference to the site being an ex-industrial waste dumping ground, created a visually imposing image against the vast natural plateau.

The work signified Oppenheim’s desire to make a primal mark on the landscape - the thumbprint representing something that is completely unique and identifiable to the individual who owns it. By incorporating his son’s mark, Oppenheim was referencing the passing of time and the role of future generations in representing a kind of transcendence of our own mortality.

Identity Stretch is a great example of Oppenheim’s late Earth works. While the 1975 installation may have been intended to defy the traditional notion of art produced for the gallery space, Oppenheim used images of the original artwork in his later practice. In 1992 he produced a set of gelatin silver and chromogenic prints made from images of the original installation, and can be considered as an artwork in itself. The work was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York who exhibited the piece in their Land Mark’s exhibition in 2013. The acquisition is telling of the monumental importance of the original installation, and the difficulty of defining art that is site-specific and ephemeral. The artist’s act of recreating Identity Stretch through documentation perhaps questions the very nature of where the art exists - is it in the tangible installation, in the documentation of it, or simply in the artist’s concept?

Eyestorm’s Identity Stretch (1970-1975) is similar in nature to the work in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The work is made up of six C-type prints, each a documentation of the original installation in its own way, but necessarily sitting together to form a kind of archival record of the original work. The prints include three photographic aerial views of the original 1975 installation; a map of the greater area of Lewiston, New York, with the location of the installation marked on it; a print illustrating the stretched and enlarged thumbprints placed on a grid; and an accompanying set of ‘instructions’ describing in a very clear and systematic way, the artist’s process for the original installation. The instructions on print 6 reads;

“Thumb prints made on elastic material, pulled to a maximum, then photographed. Lewiston site surveyed for grid installation, using white mason’s line. Spray truck worked within grid, following approximate course made up of enlarged papillary ridges of elongated and partially overlapping thumb prints.”

In noted correspondence between Eyestorm and the artist, Dennis Oppenheim determined how the entire set should be displayed in a specific formation together, with the map and aerial photographs in one line above the text and thumbprints - giving us further insight into the artist’s intentions for this piece as an artwork in itself, not just a set of records.
Dennis Oppenheim

Shadow Projection , 1999

31(w) x 45(h) cm
12.32(w) x 18.03(h) inches
Iris print on archive paper
Edition of 100
PRICE (INCL. VAT)
£ 660.00
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There is a kind of scientific, matter-of-fact nature to this work, setting it apart from the original Earth work installation where themes of human genealogy and immortality are explored. In contrast, the prints do not attempt to be anything more than a set of documentary images and processes - taking away any associative meanings that may have emerged from the original piece. In this way, we could see Identity Stretch as an original artwork that challenges the notions of what can be considered art, and - when the work is site specific and indeed, temporary - questions how we can reinterpret it in new ways.

You can find more information about Identity Stretch (1970-1975), which is available from £4176.00, and read about Dennis Oppenheim on his artist page here

Eyestorm also released the print editions Whirlpool and Shadow Projection in collaboration with Dennis Oppenheim in 2000.
 
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DO YOU OWN A DAMIEN HIRST PRINT EDITION YOU WISH TO SELL?
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With two major exhibitions during the Venice Biennale, 2017 was a year which increased the awareness of Damien Hirst. With Hirst still actively releasing new print editions, many collectors focus on his earlier work from 2000 and before, such as Valium, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), Opium, Beautiful, Galactic, Exploding Screenprint (Spin) and Painting-by-Numbers.

If you have one of the above prints that you are potentially interested in selling, please do get in touch with us via the Contact page, which you can find here.
 
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