Duncan Hannah (1952–2022) – Artforum International


Painter, collagist, and underground film star Duncan Hannah, whose job took him from the sticky ground of CBGB’s to the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, died of a coronary heart attack at his house in West Cornwall, Connecticut, on June 11 at the age of seventy although viewing a French film. The news was confirmed by filmmaker Amos Poe, a longtime good 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 function evoking the 1930s and ’40s, and for his exquisite great appears and taste. Described by Glenn O’Brien in the web pages of a 1984 challenge of Artforum as “the Henry Mancini of the New Wave, or the electricity-pop Balthus,” Hannah continued to the conclude of his existence to confound critics who couldn’t make a decision whether or not he was, as O’Brien presciently put it, “retro- or article-something.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1952, Hannah was raised in a conservative family which he yearned to escape. Originally drawn to Abstract Expressionism, he attended Bard College or university in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the early 1970s, prior to transferring to New York City in 1973, exactly where he completed his diploma at the Parsons University of Design and style in 1975. By then, he was already rubbing shoulders with the likes of Patti Smith, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Richard Hell, and Lou Reed, the last of whom at the time supplied to let 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 appearing along with Debbie Harry in Poe’s 1976 Unmade Beds and the director’s 1978 The Foreigner. Hannah invested most of the 1970s both blind drunk or searingly hungover, as he unveiled in his 2018 memoir Twentieth-Century Boy: Notebooks of the Seventies, in which he thorough what Howard Hampton, producing 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 shedding manage as a way of life—or artwork.” Even with the book’s quite a few vastly entertaining anecdotes—of a tired-on the lookout Bowie and a washed-up Marc Bolan surreptitiously examining out the New York club scene of getting offered a blow task by Nancy Spungen in the elevator of the Chelsea Resort of obtaining loaded with Salvador Dalí—“a whole lot of it was type of agonizing,” Hannah told M. H. Miller for The Paris Critique. “It was cliquey. It’s not as though most people appreciated every single other. There were a good deal of terrible vibes. A night time at CBGB’s—not all the bands were being fantastic, and not all the individuals ended up good, and you wake up with a awful hangover and could not truly don’t forget what occurred. It was just sort of chaos in a way.”

In 1980, Hannah received sober and started to aim in earnest on his artwork, which by this time was figurative, generally rendered in oil on canvas and recalling in its stark, elegant fashion the function of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. His preferred subjects were sleepy-eyed European film starlets and idealized vignettes of captivating locales these types of as the streets of Paris, the race program of the Monaco Grand Prix, or the snowcapped Alps. No make any difference how idyllic the scene, pop tradition was never ever much away: A later on collection comprised trustworthy renditions of classic e-book jackets. Nevertheless these will work could look in distinction to the seedy confines of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas Metropolis, where he cut his tooth, Hannah identified the glamour in all of it, whether or not superior-toned or tawdry.

Hannah liked far more than seventy solo demonstrates more than a occupation spanning 5 a long time, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011. His function is held in the collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Minneapolis Artwork Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among the other institutions. 

“Sometimes I was shocked at how minor I’ve transformed,” Hannah explained to Miller in 2018. “Other periods, I would shake my head and feel, God, what an asshole. But I was astonished how nicely it all labored out, in a form of shambling way. You can have a system, but then your system does not function, and then some thing else transpires. But just variety of inadvertently, the system worked.”

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