Duncan Hannah (1952–2022) – Artforum International


Painter, collagist, and underground film 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 coronary heart assault at his house in West Cornwall, Connecticut, on June 11 at the age of seventy even though seeing a French movie. 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 obtained by audiences and critics alike—was identified for his figurative work evoking the 1930s and ’40s, and for his beautiful fantastic appears and style. Explained by Glenn O’Brien in the webpages of a 1984 issue of Artforum as “the Henry Mancini of the New Wave, or the electrical power-pop Balthus,” Hannah continued to the close of his lifestyle to confound critics who could not make your mind up whether he was, as O’Brien presciently place it, “retro- or article-one thing.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1952, Hannah was lifted in a conservative home which he yearned to escape. Initially drawn to Summary Expressionism, he attended Bard School in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the early 1970s, prior to relocating to New York Town in 1973, the place he concluded his diploma at the Parsons School of Design and style in 1975. By then, he was previously rubbing shoulders with the likes of Patti Smith, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Richard Hell, and Lou Reed, the previous of whom when offered to permit Hannah, who at the time resembled shaggy-haired teen heartthrob David Cassidy, shit in his mouth (the younger painter politely declined). For the duration of this time, he dabbled in film operate, notably showing together with Debbie Harry in Poe’s 1976 Unmade Beds and the director’s 1978 The Foreigner. Hannah spent most of the 1970s either blind drunk or searingly hungover, as he revealed in his 2018 memoir Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies, in which he in depth what Howard Hampton, creating in Bookforum, explained as “riveting cautionary tales, demonstrating the necessity of uncooked experimentation as a supply of discovery and creativeness, uneasily coupled with the steeply diminishing returns of dropping regulate as a way of life—or artwork.” Inspite of the book’s numerous vastly entertaining anecdotes—of a weary-seeking Bowie and a washed-up Marc Bolan surreptitiously checking out the New York club scene of remaining made available a blow occupation by Nancy Spungen in the elevator of the Chelsea Resort of getting loaded with Salvador Dalí—“a great deal of it was form of unpleasant,” Hannah told M. H. Miller for The Paris Critique. “It was cliquey. It is not as although most people preferred every other. There have been a whole lot of terrible vibes. A night time at CBGB’s—not all the bands were being very good, and not all the persons had been wonderful, and you wake up with a horrible hangover and couldn’t definitely bear in mind what took place. It was just kind of chaos in a way.”

In 1980, Hannah received 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 model the function of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. His preferred subjects were sleepy-eyed European movie starlets and idealized vignettes of captivating locales such as the streets of Paris, the race training course of the Monaco Grand Prix, or the snowcapped Alps. No matter how idyllic the scene, pop tradition was under no circumstances significantly absent: A later collection comprised faithful renditions of vintage e-book jackets. While these performs might appear in contrast to the seedy confines of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas Metropolis, the place he lower his enamel, Hannah identified the glamour in all of it, irrespective of whether superior-toned or tawdry.

Hannah relished much more than seventy solo demonstrates more than a vocation spanning 5 decades, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011. His function is held in the collections of the Chicago Artwork Institute, the Minneapolis Art Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, amid other institutions. 

“Sometimes I was astonished at how tiny I have improved,” Hannah told Miller in 2018. “Other occasions, I would shake my head and feel, God, what an asshole. But I was stunned how well it all worked out, in a sort of shambling way. You can have a strategy, but then your plan does not do the job, and then a little something else comes about. But just type of inadvertently, the prepare worked.”

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