Always an innovator, Dennis Oppenheim was an early practitioner of earthworks, body art, and conceptual art. As time passed, he became increasingly known for his ambitious public installations and sculptures.
Oppenheim’s work encapsulates the issues that populate contemporary art discourse from the 1960s to present. He concerned himself with the real world and real-time systems versus artifice; noncommercial, nonsalable works of art versus art as a product for the market; the uses of photography and text; and notions of site-specificity. In a series of works produced between 1970 and 1974, Oppenheim used his own body as his medium, exploring the boundaries of personal risk, transformation, and communication. In 1981, his work moved in a new direction with the “machine pieces”—complex constructions that functioned as metaphors for the artistic process. By the mid-80s, he based his sculptures on the transformation of everyday objects. From the mid-90s until his passing, Oppenheim focused on the creation of large-scale, permanent structures that fused sculpture and architecture.
Oppenheim has been showcased in solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (1973, 1984); Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1975); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1983, 2003); Tel Aviv Museum, Israel (1984); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (1997); Montoro12 Contemporary Art, Rome, Italy (2013); Storm King Center, New York (2016); and the Art Institute of Chicago, IL (2016). Oppenheim’s work is held in public collections throughout the world, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; Tel Aviv Museum, Israel; Tate Modern, London, U.K.; and Samsung Foundation of Art and Culture, Seoul, Korea.