February 27, 2024


masterpiece of human

Duncan Hannah (1952–2022) – Artforum International


Painter, collagist, and underground movie star Duncan Hannah, whose occupation took him from the sticky floor of CBGB’s to the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, died of a coronary heart attack at his home in West Cornwall, Connecticut, on June 11 at the age of seventy although watching a French film. The news was verified by filmmaker Amos Poe, a longtime friend. Hannah—whose piquant chronicle of the Downtown New York scene of the 1970s, fathomed from the web pages of his Pernod-soaked journals of the period, was enthusiastically acquired by audiences and critics alike—was known for his figurative operate evoking the 1930s and ’40s, and for his beautiful fantastic appears to be and style. Explained by Glenn O’Brien in the webpages of a 1984 situation of Artforum as “the Henry Mancini of the New Wave, or the power-pop Balthus,” Hannah continued to the conclude of his lifestyle to confound critics who could not choose no matter whether he was, as O’Brien presciently set it, “retro- or article-some thing.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1952, Hannah was lifted in a conservative household which he yearned to escape. Initially drawn to Summary Expressionism, he attended Bard Faculty in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the early 1970s, prior to transferring to New York City in 1973, where he concluded his diploma at the Parsons School of Style and design in 1975. By then, he was now rubbing shoulders with the likes of Patti Smith, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Richard Hell, and Lou Reed, the past of whom once provided to enable Hannah, who at the time resembled shaggy-haired teen heartthrob David Cassidy, shit in his mouth (the youthful painter politely declined). For the duration of this time, he dabbled in movie function, notably showing along with Debbie Harry in Poe’s 1976 Unmade Beds and the director’s 1978 The Foreigner. Hannah invested most of the 1970s possibly blind drunk or searingly hungover, as he discovered in his 2018 memoir Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies, in which he in-depth what Howard Hampton, crafting in Bookforum, explained as “riveting cautionary tales, demonstrating the necessity of uncooked experimentation as a source of discovery and creative imagination, uneasily coupled with the steeply diminishing returns of losing handle as a way of life—or artwork.” Inspite of the book’s quite a few vastly entertaining anecdotes—of a worn out-hunting Bowie and a washed-up Marc Bolan surreptitiously checking out the New York club scene of currently being offered a blow position by Nancy Spungen in the elevator of the Chelsea Resort of acquiring loaded with Salvador Dalí—“a lot of it was variety of painful,” Hannah told M. H. Miller for The Paris Critique. “It was cliquey. It’s not as however everybody liked each individual other. There had been a lot of bad vibes. A night at CBGB’s—not all the bands had been fantastic, and not all the people today ended up wonderful, and you wake up with a terrible hangover and could not really try to remember what happened. It was just sort of chaos in a way.”

In 1980, Hannah acquired sober and started to emphasis in earnest on his art, which by this time was figurative, ordinarily rendered in oil on canvas and recalling in its stark, elegant fashion the get the job done of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. His most well-liked subjects were sleepy-eyed European movie starlets and idealized vignettes of pretty locales such as the streets of Paris, the race class of the Monaco Grand Prix, or the snowcapped Alps. No matter how idyllic the scene, pop lifestyle was never far away: A later series comprised devoted renditions of classic reserve jackets. While these functions might seem to be in contrast to the seedy confines of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas Town, the place he slash his enamel, Hannah uncovered the glamour in all of it, irrespective of whether superior-toned or tawdry.

Hannah appreciated a lot more than seventy solo shows in excess of a occupation spanning five many years, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011. His get the job done is held in the collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Minneapolis Art Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, New York, among the other institutions. 

“Sometimes I was stunned at how minimal I’ve changed,” Hannah instructed Miller in 2018. “Other times, I would shake my head and believe, God, what an asshole. But I was surprised how nicely it all worked out, in a variety of shambling way. You can have a plan, but then your plan doesn’t work, and then something else happens. But just type of inadvertently, the strategy worked.”

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