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Hopper canvases town

Thesp links H'wood with Sin City, photos with film

CineVegas supporter Dennis Hopper says the fest is just one — albeit his favorite — part of a budding Las Vegas arts scene that deserves more attention from Hollywood.

He should know. The chair of the film event’s creative advisory board has his hand in a few of the city’s most successful ventures into the art world.

Though most of the city’s edgier cultural spots are off the Strip, Hopper helped formulate the plan for one of the gems of the Vegas art scene: the Guggenheim Hermitage at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.

As Hopper tells it, he hooked up with Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens, a New York motorcycle buddy while doing a motorcycle ride in St. Petersburg, Russia, as an extension of the motorcycle show at New York’s Guggenheim.

Krens is credited with forging the partnership between the “Gug” and the Hermitage.

“That was my reintroduction to Vegas,” says Hopper: “when we got the Hermitage to agree to come to the Venetian. That was where I met (Venetian president) Rob Goldstein — in Russia.”

The museums did have to make a deal with the casino devil, though, and it shows in the Guggenheim Hermitage’s pint-size footprint. Nothing on the Strip is supposed to prevent guests from spending money for more than 90 minutes.

Hopper also has ties to the arts district near downtown, where things get funkier and more interesting. G-C Arts, the crown jewel in the district’s rhinestone tiara, showed a collection of Hopper’s work for three months in ’04, a year after it opened with an exhibit of Ed Ruscha prints.

G-C has in its inventory works by Hopper’s pop-art cohorts Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg (all, incidentally, subjects of Hopper’s portrait photo work on display through June in a retrospective exhibit at Ace Gallery Los Angeles).

Hopper’s role as a connect-the-dots figure between film and photo, Hollywood and Sin City will be literalized at CineVegas through an exhibit of his work in the festival hub at the Palms.

Although he couldn’t say more about the pieces than “they’re three billboard-size projects,” one thing is sure: They can’t be seen at the Ace or at Paris’ Pompidou Center (also now featuring Hopper’s work as part of an L.A. exhibit) — or anywhere else, for that matter. He’s creating them specifically for the festival.

But the art Hopper himself is most interested in is the films.

“This is a great festival, and I’d like to see it grow,” he says. “With (Hollywood’s current emphasis on the) big weekend gross, we’re losing our history, and it’s important to remind people that there’s a history of film, and a renaissance … like in painting.”

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