Bob Dylan, the Fine Artist?

“I’ve done sketching most of my life. In notebooks, on napkins, on rough paper or cardboard, plates and coffee pots...basically when there’s something to look at,” says legendary cultural icon Bob Dylan. While he has drawn and painted for more than 40 years, it wasn’t until 2007 that his works were first exhibited publicly; his newest show, on view now at Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton, New York, is dedicated to the artist’s acclaimed “Drawn Blank” series. Based on drawings he made while travelling between 1989 and 1992, Dylan’s suite of mixed media paintings express his experiences and recollections of those images. They depict genre scenes of casual people, moments, and spaces—a tree-lined park, small town streets, railroad tracks, and canals. They do not document his life as a musician, but rather catalog life outside of concerts, rehearsals, and tour buses.

While he cites Max Beckmann and Paul Gauguin as influences, Dylan employs bright colors that recall Fauvism. Roses on a Hillside (2010) features a strange and engaging compositional gambit, spanning a vista that includes an idyllic village in the distance, with colorful rooftops and a peacefully windswept sky realized through large, quick brushstrokes in blue and white. The image is ultimately dominated by the interruption of a single rose, which floats into the foreground from the right edge, unmistakably recalling Salvador Dalí’s iconic Meditative Rose (1958), and injecting the work with a touch of Surrealism.

Man on a Bridge (2010) presents the viewer with a man in a pea coat, standing shyly on a highway overpass. Over his shoulder, suggestively antiquated architecture hints that this scene could be a canal in fin de siècle Europe or a highway in the contemporary American Northeast. Both that painting and Dylan’s Train Tracks (2007) use a similar compositional device and palette: each employs one-point perspective to pull the viewer into the receding background of moody purple, blue, and brown daubs of paint. In both, Dylan portrays a space and time that is archetypal, rather than wholly documentary. And the early modernist methods he favors make his scenes of rural American culture unexpectedly elegant.

Bob Dylan ‘The Drawn Blank Series’” is on view at Mark Borghi Fine Art, Bridgehampton, NY, July 4th–18th, 2014.

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