Jim Dine. American, born 1935

Artist Statement

I have had this relationship with tools from birth because my grandfather had a hardware store and a work shop and he let me use everything. I was playing with tools. I took it naturally that I was in the presence of an object that was meant for working and that gave me a great deal of pleasure.



born 1935 Cincinnati, OH

1957 BFA Ohio University, Athens
1953-55 Boston Museum School, MA
University of Cincinnati, OH
public collections include
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Cincinnati Art Museum, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
Dallas Museum, TX
Fogg Art Museum, Boston, MA
Guggenheim Museum of Art, NYC
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Tate Gallery, London
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan
Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

The New York Times

ART REVIEW; From Modernism Backward: Jim Dine's Multiple Styles
by Ken Johnson, April 2004

Jim Dine, who is having a retrospective of drawings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and a two-gallery show of new paintings, sculptures and photographs at PaceWildenstein and Pace/MacGill in Manhattan, made it in New York in the early 60's. Fresh out of Ohio State University, he arrived in 1958, a propitious moment.

With Abstract Expressionism going stale, impious youngsters like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow and others were overturning all the traditional rules, mixing painting and sculpture, absorbing mass media imagery and ugly junk into their works, and even abandoning object-making altogether for the possibilities of participatory performances that would come to be called Happenings.

Mr. Dine proved himself a lightening-quick study. He staged and performed in his own Happenings and he made hybrids of painting and sculpture incorporating actual tools, lettering and generic images. He became permanently identified with these works -- the bathrobe, the valentine heart, the Venus de Milo.

Not a profound originator, Mr. Dine was, rather, a savvy recycler of ideas that others had put into circulation. He knew how to make avant-garde art viewer-friendly, and as the market for Pop Art and associated styles surged, Mr. Dine rode the wave to fame and fortune before he was out of his 20's.

It is curious, then, that with the exception of one large piece from 1968-69, the National Gallery exhibition includes nothing from the 60's. The simple explanation for this is that Mr. Dine didn't focus on drawing then. But there seems to be more to it than that.

In his catalog essay for the shows of new work at PaceWildenstein and Pace/MacGill, Vincent Katz writes that Mr. Dine himself feels that he didn't come to full maturity as an artist until 1970. And in her essay for the National Gallery catalog, Judith Brodie, the museum's curator of modern prints and drawings, who organized the retrospective, explains why the 60's was not an entirely positive time for the artist.

Sudden celebrity precipitated a personal crisis for Mr. Dine, Ms. Brodie writes. He developed phobias, withdrew from the art world and in 1967 moved to England with his wife, Nancy Minto, and their three young sons. There, over the next four years, he immersed himself in traditional European art and culture. He befriended R. B. Kitaj, the painter known for his often vehement objections to the reductive tendencies of Modernist formalism.

What Mr. Dine brought back to New York in 1971 was an appreciation for the old masters and an ambition to incorporate traditional skills and a richer humanist dimension into his own art. That this development was not entirely for the better is evinced in the National Gallery show by the contrast between its one work from the 60's and the rest of the show.

The 1968-69 work, "Name Painting (1935-63) No.1," is a far cry from traditional drawing. It is a canvas rectangle more than 15 feet wide on which Mr. Dine wrote in charcoal the names of all the people he could remember having any kind of relationship with over the first 28 years of his life: family members, teachers, colleagues, friends and lovers. The hundreds of names fill the canvas top to bottom and edge to edge, creating a vibrating, smudgy field of graphic mark-making and verbal memory.

Nothing in the retrospective that follows this big bang of an introduction plays so excitingly with conventional ideas about drawing. Mr. Dine continued to challenge tradition -- as in a large, heavily worked drawing of a female nude with an actual red work glove glued over the face -- but invariably such anti-traditional elements were subordinated to the pursuit of conventional sorts of refinements.

More than anything, the National Gallery's exhibition wants us to be impressed by Mr. Dine's virtuoso skill, and to that end it shows him working in many different modes. There are Precisionist and sometimes mildly Surrealist images of tools; dark and crusty nudes that call to mind Mr. Kitaj's more overtly erotic drawings; finely penciled, old masterly self-portraits; expressionistic charcoal sketches of antique sculptures in a museum; atmospheric images of Disney's Pinocchio drawn on old printer's felts; owls and ravens that recall the avian imagery of Leonard Baskin; and murky pictures of trees and gardens.

A sympathetic take on all this might read it as a reflection of the multiplicity of the self and of Mr. Dine's mercurial ability to shift psychic states -- often within the same drawing. But the actual effect is rather less than that. Mr. Dine comes across as a skillful illustrator able to work in whatever style the assignment calls for. Expressionism, Realism, Pop, Surrealism, collage, painting on ceramics: he can do it all. And despite a mood of portentous romanticism prevailing over more playful or ironic tendencies, a deeper sense of purpose remains hard to discern.

Mr. Dine's new works in the two Manhattan shows don't help to make him seem a more substantial artist. They include a series of medium-large paintings, each of which has a valentine heart image imbedded in an all-over field of Abstract Expressionist brushwork; a freestanding folding screen with tools, Venus de Milo reproductions and molten metal puddles attached to a steel framework and randomly spray-painted in saturated colors; and big, grainy photographic views of the artist's messy studio that make it seem a place of Dionysian mystery. This is the art of a versatile but crushingly heavy-handed stylist.

"Drawings of Jim Dine" is at the National Gallery of Art, National Mall between Third and Ninth Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, (202) 737-4215, through Aug. 1. New works by Mr. Dine are at PaceWildenstein through May 1 and Pace/MacGill through May 8; both galleries are at 32 East 57th Street, Manhattan, (212) 421-3293.


Jim Dine Designs for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (New York, 1968)

J. Gordon: Jim Dine (New York, 1970)

Jim Dine: Complete Graphics (exh. cat., W. Berlin, Gal. Mikro, 1970) [cat. rai. from 1960 to 1970]

Jim Dine: Prints, 1970–1977 (exh. cat., Williamstown, MA, Williams Coll. Mus. A., 1977) [cat. rai.]

C. W. Glenn: Jim Dine: Figure Drawings, 1975–1979 (New York, 1979) [excellent illustrations]

N. Smilansky: 'An interview with Jim Dine', Prt Rev., xii (1980), pp. 56–61

D. Shapiro: Jim Dine (New York, 1981)

C. Ackley: Etchings by Jim Dine: Nancy Outside in July (New York, 1983)

G. W. J. Beal: Jim Dine: Five Themes (New York, 1984) [excellent colour pls]

C. W. Glenn: Jim Dine: Drawings (New York, 1985) [excellent pls]

E. G. D'Oench and J. E. Feinberg: Jim Dine: Prints, 1977–1985 (New York, 1986) [fully illus. cat. rai.]

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