Fans of Twentieth Century Boy, artist Duncan Hannah’s enchanting and captivating memoir of his coming of age in New York’s 1970s downtown art scene should find no surprise that his latest pieces combine two of his favorite period obsessions: vintage magazines and vintage foreign films.
“I always wanted my paintings to have the feel of foreign films,” he tells me by phone from his home in West Cornwall, Connecticut. “That sense of mystery and a strange glamour.”
When the lockdown came, back in the spring, Hannah decided to see it as an opportunity. “I thought to myself, ‘This is sort of like having an extended time at an artists’ colony. Like Yaddo, but without the lunch basket outside your studio.’ I decided I would make something of the time.” And make he did. “With the world falling apart, I decided on the only rational thing to do,” he says with a laugh, “to indulge my two passions.”
The result is a series of alluring paintings of real European film stars (Monica Vitti, Dominique Sanda) and a few others fronting real European magazines (Stern, L’Europeo) that vibrate with mystery and yearning and a certain unknowability, just like the best foreign films.
“The only catch,” Hannah says, “is that these artists never appeared on them. I just thought they always should have. I think of the paintings less as love letters and more like love portraits.”
Michael Hainey is a Deputy Editor for Air Mail