(1938 – 2011), USA

Dennis Oppenheim Biography

Dennis Oppenheim was an American conceptual artist who became well-known for his vast and unpredictable body of artwork that comprises performance, sculpture, site-specific interventions, film, and photography.

Read More

Early Years

Oppenheim was born in Electric City, Washington. From 1966 until his death in 2011, he lived and worked in New York. Oppenheim received his BFA. from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1964 and an MFA from Stanford University in 1965. He received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1969 and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1974 and 1982.

Dennis Oppenheim Artworks

Dennis Oppenheim rose to eminence in the 1960s with his large-scale 'earthworks', in which he cut abstract configurations in fields of wheat (Directed Harvest (1966)), traced the rings of a tree's growth in snow (Annual Rings (1968)), or created a sprawling white square with salt in downtown Manhattan (Salt Flat (1968)). These ephemeral artworks, which survived only through photographic documentation, formed part of a greater movement known as Earth or Land Art, which took place across the U.S. and the U.K. and included artists like Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, and Nancy Holt.

In the 1970s, Oppenheim was among the cutting edge of artists using film and video as a means to investigate themes relating to body art, conceptual art, and performance. As Oppenheim's body became the subject of his art, discomfort, humor, and even immediate danger formed key elements of the quasi-autobiographical works in which the artist was his own canvas. In Reading Position for Second Degree Burn (1970), for example, he lay in the sun for hours in order to burn the shape of a book onto his chest in what he described as a 'corporeal enactment of painting.'

Large-scale, pop-forward sculptures and permanent installations formed the focus of Oppenheim's practice by the mid-1990s. Among his best-known works is Device to Root Out Evil (1997), a sculpture comprised of a New England-style church built upside-down, perched precariously on the point of its steeple, which drives down toward the ground. This sculpture is characteristic of Oppenheim's later work, in which he sought to transform everyday objects and fuse sculpture and architecture.


Dennis Oppenheim exhibited his works internationally in galleries and museums, including solo shows at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Tate Gallery, London.

Fay Janet Jackson | Ocula | 2022

Dennis Oppenheim Featured Artworks

Theme for a Major Hit by Dennis Oppenheim contemporary artwork installation
Dennis Oppenheim Theme for a Major Hit, 1974 Motor driver marionette, 2-hour recording, circular stage, spotlight
76.2 x 25.4 cm
Wooson Gallery Contact Gallery

Dennis Oppenheim Recent Exhibitions

Dennis Oppenheim Represented By

Dennis Oppenheim In Ocula Magazine

Dennis Oppenheim In Related Press

View All (5)
Dennis Oppenheim and Josephine Halvorson shift our perspective with oversize sculptures Related Press Dennis Oppenheim and Josephine Halvorson shift our perspective with oversize sculptures 2 September 2016, Hyperallergic

Have you ever wanted to walk through a large shirt? Whether or not you’ve entertained the notion, it is now a real possibility at Storm King Art Center. The upstate New York sculpture park is currently home to a super-sized sculpture of a collared men’s shirt and tie, conceived by Dennis Oppenheim. The work serves as an archway to a...

Fade out copy.
Read More
A dialogue with nature: Dennis Oppenheim at Storm King Related Press A dialogue with nature: Dennis Oppenheim at Storm King 25 July 2016, Art in America

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for artists, and landscape remains a favored subject for many. In the late 1960s, a group of artists, including Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, and Dennis Oppenheim, among others, came up with the revolutionary idea to consider land itself as a medium, inherently laden as it is with...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Dennis Oppenheim, a sculptor who moved heaven and earth Related Press Dennis Oppenheim, a sculptor who moved heaven and earth 11 July 2016, The New York Times

From his Minimalist earthworks created in remote places in the 1960s to Pop-Surrealist public sculptures for urban settings in the 1990s and 2000s, Dennis Oppenheim was dedicated to the proposition that art should be open to the world rather than cloistered in galleries and museums. So it is appropriate that he should be this year’s featured...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections Related Press Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections 9 April 2016, Art Fix Daily

From April 21 to 24, the 34th edition of Art Brussels will take place in a new location, Tour & Taxis, a spectacular example of industrial architecture built in 1904, formerly a customs house. This year, the fair has been reduced in size, bringing together 141 galleries from 28 countries, represented in three main sections: PRIME, DISCOVERY and...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Follow Dennis Oppenheim
Sign up and stay ahead.
When new artworks, exhibitions and articles are added.
Get updates when this happens and more.
New works are often added to the artist's profile.
Get updates when this happens and more.
Sign Up Follow