Duncan Hannah (1952–2022) – Artforum International


Painter, collagist, and underground film star Duncan Hannah, whose occupation took him from the sticky floor of CBGB’s to the walls of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, died of a heart assault at his property in West Cornwall, Connecticut, on June 11 at the age of seventy while looking at a French movie. The information was verified by filmmaker Amos Poe, a longtime good friend. Hannah—whose piquant chronicle of the Downtown New York scene of the 1970s, fathomed from the internet pages of his Pernod-soaked journals of the era, was enthusiastically acquired by audiences and critics alike—was acknowledged for his figurative work evoking the 1930s and ’40s, and for his exquisite excellent appears to be and style. Described by Glenn O’Brien in the web pages of a 1984 concern of Artforum as “the Henry Mancini of the New Wave, or the electrical power-pop Balthus,” Hannah continued to the end of his lifestyle to confound critics who couldn’t make your mind up irrespective of whether he was, as O’Brien presciently set it, “retro- or post-a thing.”

Born in Minneapolis in 1952, Hannah was raised in a conservative house which he yearned to escape. Originally drawn to Summary Expressionism, he attended Bard Higher education in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in the early 1970s, right before shifting to New York Metropolis in 1973, the place he concluded his diploma at the Parsons University 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 very last of whom the moment provided to permit Hannah, who at the time resembled shaggy-haired teen heartthrob David Cassidy, shit in his mouth (the youthful painter politely declined). Through this time, he dabbled in film function, notably showing alongside Debbie Harry in Poe’s 1976 Unmade Beds and the director’s 1978 The Foreigner. Hannah spent most of the 1970s possibly 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, described as “riveting cautionary tales, demonstrating the requirement of uncooked experimentation as a resource of discovery and creative imagination, uneasily coupled with the steeply diminishing returns of losing handle as a way of life—or artwork.” In spite of the book’s several vastly entertaining anecdotes—of a drained-searching Bowie and a washed-up Marc Bolan surreptitiously examining out the New York club scene of being available a blow job by Nancy Spungen in the elevator of the Chelsea Hotel of receiving loaded with Salvador Dalí—“a good deal of it was sort of painful,” Hannah told M. H. Miller for The Paris Critique. “It was cliquey. It’s not as nevertheless most people favored each and every other. There ended up a large amount of poor vibes. A night time at CBGB’s—not all the bands ended up very good, and not all the individuals have been nice, and you wake up with a horrible hangover and could not seriously remember what occurred. It was just variety of chaos in a way.”

In 1980, Hannah bought sober and began to concentrate in earnest on his artwork, which by this time was figurative, usually rendered in oil on canvas and recalling in its stark, elegant design the work of Edward Hopper or Winslow Homer. His desired subjects were sleepy-eyed European film starlets and idealized vignettes of hot locales these kinds of as the streets of Paris, the race study course of the Monaco Grand Prix, or the snowcapped Alps. No make a difference how idyllic the scene, pop lifestyle was hardly ever significantly away: A later on sequence comprised devoted renditions of vintage book jackets. However these works may well appear in distinction to the seedy confines of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas Metropolis, where by he slice his tooth, Hannah found the glamour in all of it, no matter if substantial-toned or tawdry.

Hannah appreciated extra than seventy solo displays above a vocation spanning five many years, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2011. His operate is held in the collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Minneapolis Art Institute, and the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork, New York, amongst other establishments. 

“Sometimes I was amazed at how tiny I’ve adjusted,” Hannah informed Miller in 2018. “Other situations, I would shake my head and consider, God, what an asshole. But I was amazed how properly it all labored out, in a type of shambling way. You can have a program, but then your strategy does not function, and then anything else takes place. But just sort of inadvertently, the system labored.”

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