Charlotte Rampling, Christopher Walken, Dree Hemingway: Roommates?
Photographer Alex Hank (pictured, right) taught himself to paint, brushstroke by brushstroke. Some would hesitate to dive into portraiture with a background like that, but Hank dreamt big. “I made a wish list of people I’d like to paint,” he said at the opening of his new exhibition, Roommates, on Friday night. “That’s the great thing about having nothing to lose. You totally lose your fear about approaching people, however you can.” Hank’s list included the legendary English actress Charlotte Rampling (pictured, left) and Christopher Walken, both of whom, to his slight surprise, he convinced. “That’s the kind of situation most people think happens because you’ve got some connection, or something. But it wasn’t like that at all. I literally just signed up for IMDB Pro—for, like, twenty bucks you can get pretty much any celebrity’s contact info, even if it’s just an ‘info at’-type e-mail address.” (Why Rampling in particular? “In some ways she’s an obvious choice—she’s an icon, right?” he said. “And she knows it.”)
The actress hosted a private dinner in Hank’s honor at the former Dia Center for the Arts space in West Chelsea, where the full set of large-scale paintings is now on display. “I think it’s very personal, it’s very humane, and I think there’s a great spirit in the faces that he paints,” she said. “They come alive more and more as you look at them. It’s fascinating to see all these faces; they should always be together.”
In fact, the name of the exhibition came about because they were all together—at least in painted form. “It started as a joke because a friend of mine lives in the little bedroom in my studio. All of a sudden there was one of these up there, and then another, and they became the roommates,” Hank said, while accepting congratulations from the likes of Dree Hemingway, Gay Talese, Carmen Dell’Orefice, and Zani Gugelmann. Roommate Walken couldn’t make it for the evening’s festivities, but according to the artist, he’d already had a memorable enough experience with him to last a lifetime. “When I wrote the e-mail they said to please give my phone number and expect a call from Mrs. Walken,” he recalled. “My friend that helped me with the show said, ‘Make sure you pick up the phone every single time in case it’s Walken.’ So, of course, I get a call while I was in the bathroom from Mrs. Walken inviting me to their house in Connecticut.” He managed to return the call and make the trip to see the star. His impressions? “Walken is Walken,” he said. “I will remember that moment until the day that I die.”
Roommates is open through March 25 at the former Dia Center for the Arts, 548 W. 22nd St., NYC.
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