Duncan Hannah (1952–2022) – Artforum International


Painter, collagist, and underground movie star Duncan Hannah, whose profession took him from the sticky ground of CBGB’s to the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, died of a heart assault at his household in West Cornwall, Connecticut, on June 11 at the age of seventy although looking at a French film. The news was confirmed by filmmaker Amos Poe, a longtime pal. Hannah—whose piquant chronicle of the Downtown New York scene of the 1970s, fathomed from the pages of his Pernod-soaked journals of the period, was enthusiastically obtained by audiences and critics alike—was regarded for his figurative function evoking the 1930s and ’40s, and for his beautiful excellent appears to be and style. Explained by Glenn O’Brien in the pages of a 1984 difficulty of Artforum as “the Henry Mancini of the New Wave, or the energy-pop Balthus,” Hannah continued to the conclude of his daily life to confound critics who could not come to a decision whether he was, as O’Brien presciently place it, “retro- or put up-anything.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1952, Hannah was raised in a conservative home which he yearned to escape. At first drawn to Summary Expressionism, he attended Bard College or university in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the early 1970s, right before moving to New York Metropolis in 1973, in which he concluded his diploma at the Parsons School of Design in 1975. By then, he was currently rubbing shoulders with the likes of Patti Smith, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Richard Hell, and Lou Reed, the past of whom once supplied to permit Hannah, who at the time resembled shaggy-haired teen heartthrob David Cassidy, shit in his mouth (the younger painter politely declined). In the course of this time, he dabbled in movie function, notably appearing along with Debbie Harry in Poe’s 1976 Unmade Beds and the director’s 1978 The Foreigner. Hannah put in most of the 1970s both blind drunk or searingly hungover, as he uncovered in his 2018 memoir Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies, in which he in depth what Howard Hampton, creating in Bookforum, described as “riveting cautionary tales, demonstrating the necessity of raw experimentation as a resource of discovery and creativeness, uneasily coupled with the steeply diminishing returns of shedding handle as a way of life—or artwork.” Even with the book’s lots of vastly entertaining anecdotes—of a exhausted-hunting Bowie and a washed-up Marc Bolan surreptitiously checking out the New York club scene of getting provided a blow occupation by Nancy Spungen in the elevator of the Chelsea Lodge of having loaded with Salvador Dalí—“a whole lot of it was variety of agonizing,” Hannah told M. H. Miller for The Paris Review. “It was cliquey. It is not as however most people preferred each individual other. There ended up a good deal of negative vibes. A night at CBGB’s—not all the bands ended up very good, and not all the people ended up pleasant, and you wake up with a horrible hangover and could not actually recall what transpired. It was just variety of chaos in a way.”

In 1980, Hannah received sober and commenced to concentrate in earnest on his artwork, which by this time was figurative, typically rendered in oil on canvas and recalling in its stark, sophisticated type the do the job of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. His chosen topics were being sleepy-eyed European movie starlets and idealized vignettes of attractive locales this kind of as the streets of Paris, the race course of the Monaco Grand Prix, or the snowcapped Alps. No make a difference how idyllic the scene, pop tradition was by no means significantly away: A later on collection comprised devoted renditions of classic e book jackets. Even though these operates may look in contrast to the seedy confines of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas Town, in which he slash his enamel, Hannah identified the glamour in all of it, regardless of whether superior-toned or tawdry.

Hannah relished far more than seventy solo displays around a career spanning five decades, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011. His operate is held in the collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Minneapolis Artwork Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, New York, between other institutions. 

“Sometimes I was stunned at how small I have improved,” Hannah explained to Miller in 2018. “Other occasions, I would shake my head and assume, God, what an asshole. But I was amazed how very well it all labored out, in a form of shambling way. You can have a strategy, but then your system does not function, and then one thing else takes place. But just sort of inadvertently, the strategy labored.”

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