NOT A POP ARTIST: Five Sides of Jim Dine

Jim Dine Rainbow- Matthews Gallery Blog

 

78-year-old artist Jim Dine has earned his place in any good post-war art history textbook. Picking exactly when to spotlight the artist must be a difficult task for scholars. The painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, stage designer and performance artist has a way of diverging from the status quo and ending up at the forefront of new art movements. Just when things get established, he’s off on his own again.

A mixed media drawing  by Dine recently found its way to Matthews Gallery, so we took the opportunity to explore 5 manifestations of the chameleonic artist:

Fluxus Performer

Dine grew up in Cincinatti and got his BFA from Ohio University. When he arrived in New York in 1958, the art world was fixated on a type of work you couldn’t sell in a gallery. Some critics called them “wacky nightmares“, others described them as “a three-ringed circus with undertones of group therapy“, but Dine and his friends Claes Oldenberg, Allan Kaprow and John Cage dubbed their performance art pieces “Happenings”.

Happenings were designed to be as ephemeral and unpredictable as day-to-day life—but a little weirder. Battles between ballerinas and roller-skaters, reenactments of the Lincoln assassination, bikini stripteases and blue ice cream feasts were all passionately performed, often in rapid sequence. Whether you call it though-provoking or senseless, the Fluxus movement was one-of-a-kind. For Dine, all the world was a stage until…

Pop Progenitor

Jim Dine- Robe Diptych- Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Jim Dine, Red and Black Diptych Robe, 1980

In 1962, Dine’s paintings appeared alongside work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and others in the Pasadena Art Museum’s show New Painting of Common Objects. Curated by Walter Hopps of Ferus Gallery (site of Warhol’s first solo show), the exhibition was a seminal moment for a new movement: Pop Art.

Dine’s inclusion in the exhibition made perfect sense at the time. He was experimenting with serial imagery of familiar objects and symbols like bathrobes, hearts and tools. However, the artist’s expressive style and often tender subject matter clashed with the postmodern angst of other Pop progenitors. Soon enough, he was plotting his escape…

Modernist

Jim Dine- Paris- Matthews Gallery Blog

Jim Dine, Paris Smiles in Darkness, 1976

Dine moved to London in 1967, a strange decision considering his controversial history with the United Kingdom. A year before his solo exhibition at London’s Fraser Gallery was raided by police and the owner was fined for showing “indecent” images.

The artist defiantly continued to his relationship with Fraser and used his time in Europe to study the work of Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and other modernists. In 1971 he returned to the United States, ready to chart a new course…

Neo-Expressionist

Jim Dine- A Lady Sitting Drawing- Matthews Gallery Blog

 Jim Dine, A Lady Sitting, Mixed Media, 1975

Minimalism was en vogue when Dine arrived in New York, but the artist wasn’t interested. Instead he focused on figure drawing, refining his skills in various mediums and earning a reputation as a master draftsman. The mixed media drawing in our collection is from this period. A stunningly realistic face painted in oil is framed by confident charcoal marks and a glowing crayon color field.

In the years to come Dine’s figurative work would mark him as a founder of Neo-Expressionism, but critics could never assign the artist a particular label for long…

Modern Individualist

2008_JimDine_23220011

Installation shot, Jim Dine: Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)

 Perhaps Dine’s artistic identity is best summed up by MoMA:

This commitment to a personally invested, image-dictated content and a continuing interest in the technical and expressive potential of every medium has characterized Dine’s work as a whole. Thus, Dine has often been out-of-step with the major movements of the post-World War II period and must be considered a modern individualist.

It’s a bit of a non-title, but Dine defies labels at every turn. The almost-octogenarian is still working his way into new chapters of art history.

Check out our website for more on Jim Dine, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr for to-the-minute gallery news.

FOCUS ON THE FIGURE: The good, the bad and the body

Two Odalisques by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Jamie Chase- Matthews Gallery blog

Two Odalisques by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (left) and Jamie Chase (right)

No matter their preferred medium or subject matter, one of the first things young art students are challenged to do is pick up a pencil and draw from life.

“It’s only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise, that you have rendered something in its true character,” said Camille Pissarro, mentor to the Impressionists.

Of course, Pissarro had a different idea of what it meant to evoke something’s “true character” than, say, Paul Gauguin. As we discussed in our last post, Vermeer and de Kooning painted female figures in oil to highly divergent ends.

Our FOCUS ON THE FIGURE survey show, running now through the end of December, has us pondering the artist’s eye for the human body. History’s verdict on the success or failure of a particular depiction is often entirely based on the culture that first viewed it. Even in the hands of the most technically talented artists, the human body has a unique capacity to spark fiery controversies. Here are some notorious offending body parts:

SKIN

Michelangelo- The Last Judgment detail- Matthews Gallery blog

The Last Judgment (detail), Michelangelo

Believe it or not, that’s a woman in the image above. Michelangelo (1475-1564) had a hard time depicting feminine grace, probably because he used massive body builders as models. That’s not the reason the artist’s Last Judgment mural in the Sistine Chapel drew the ire of the church, though. Michelangelo left many of his buff bodies unclothed and the clergy was afraid they would provoke sinful titillation. After the artist’s death, fig leaves were swiftly deployed.

TEETH

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun- Self Portrait- Matthews Gallery

Self portrait, Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

As chronicled in our blog series 10 Women Who Changed Art History Forever, even fully clothed models (with frilly collars) could show too much. When Marie Antoinette’s court painter Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842) dared to flash a smile for this self-portrait she was roundly condemned for diverging from the style of “the Ancients”. Read what one gossip columnist had to say about it here.

EARS

John Singer Sargent- Madame X- Matthews Gallery blogMadame X, John Singer Sargent

Top Paris socialite and legendary beauty Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau couldn’t resist John Singer Sargent’s (1856-1925) offer to paint her portrait in 1883. When conservative viewers at the Paris Salon were scandalized by Gautreau’s bare white shoulder and bright red ear in the painting, Sargent attempted some damage control by painting in a shoulder strap and renaming the painting Madame X. Alas, Gautreau’s reputation was forever damaged.

FACES

Pablo Picasso- Les Demoiselles dAvignon- Matthews Gallery blog

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) always referred to his seminal painting of a group of Spanish prostitutes as The Brothel of Avignon. The canvas sat in his studio for years before he exhibited it under the title Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) in 1916. Even after its rebranding, the painting caused a stir because the women’s faces—influenced by traditional Iberian art, African tribal masks and the art of Oceania—were considered savage and their postures barbaric and aggressive.

After the show, the work was rolled up and stored away for years. It wouldn’t be recognized for its visual innovations until later, when designer Jacques Doucet bought it for 25,000 francs in 1924. “It is a work which to my mind transcends painting; it is the theater of everything that has happened in the last 50 years,” Doucet said.

Our FOCUS ON THE FIGURE show features art by Jamie Chase, Kate Rivers, Eric G. Thompson, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Harold Frank, Pablo Picasso and more. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more news about the exhibition.

FOCUS ON THE FIGURE: A Daub of Flesh

Vermeer and de Kooning - Matthews Gallery blog

“Flesh was the reason oil painting was invented,” said Willem de Kooning. The quote is a nod to the Dutch masters, who developed the medium to accurately evoke the semi-translucent glow of human skin in the crisp light of 17th century Delft.

By the mid-1900s, de Kooning was using the same medium to very different ends. His nudes unraveled across the canvas, their mottled flesh mimicking the dark tones of a bruised peach or the sickly hues of a jaundiced child.

The abstract expressionist encoded in painted skin the darkest sexual desires and terrors of the modern world, but he wasn’t blind to the way the inherent qualities of oil linked him to a much different time and place.

Our new exhibition FOCUS ON THE FIGURE, running December 2 to 9, holds a similar philosophy at its heart. The use of figures in art stretches back to prehistory, and new explorations into the subject have always looked to the past in one way or another.

Pierre Auguste Renoir - Odalisque - Matthews GalleryPierre-Auguste Renoir’s (1841-1919) etching Odalisque refers to Turkish concubines, but that wasn’t necessarily the artist’s intended title. Renoir submitted a painting of a nude called Diana to the Paris Salon in 1867. The erotic depiction of the Roman goddess offended the judges and the painting was rejected.

Three years later the artist used the same model for a painting called Odalisque and made sure she was fully clothed. The second work, stripped of its mythological significance and given an exotic twist, was accepted to the Salon.

Harold Frank - Blue Nude - Matthews Gallery

In this etching with the same title Renoir refuses to hold back. The nude Odalisque is so tenderly rendered her skin looks as soft as butter. “When I’ve painted a woman’s bottom so that I want to touch it, then [the painting] is finished,” the artist said.

Harold Frank (1917-1995) was born in England and grew up in New York, where he drew inspiration from American modernism and abstract expressionism. His take on the female figure in Blue Nude features quick, expressive brushwork that was no doubt inspired by de Kooning.

Both artists incorporated drips and splatters of paint into their compositions to create spacial ambiguities in the picture plane. Is Frank’s nude standing in a corner or floating in a color field? The answer seems to change with every glance.

Jamie Chase - Turning Points - Matthews GalleryJamie Chase immerses a figure in a vibrant yellow atmosphere in Turning PointIt brings to mind both Mark Rothko and Nathan Oliveira, but Chase’s influences stretch farther back in art history.

Chase grew up in San Francisco and attended art school there for a short time before dropping out to travel Europe. He lived in various cities and educated himself on the masters before returning to San Francisco in the early 1970s. There he painted murals for a bookstore, drawing inspiration from ancient Egyptian art, European cave paintings and Native American art.

Come trace the history of the artist’s impulse to capture the figure at the exhibition this December, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more news from the gallery.