The Colors and Culture of Jim Dine at The Armory Show 2015

At 80 years old, Jim Dine is still producing original artworks—a fact that will be instilled this year at The Armory Show. Within their booth at the fair, London’s Alan Cristea Gallery offers “Jim Dine at 80,” a retrospective selection of Dine’s prints that date as far back as the 1970s. The works on view are prime examples of his trademark motifs, demonstrating what the artist himself has described as, “objects which are familiar to all of us, as stand-ins for personal [experiences].”

Dine came to prominence as a pop artist, alongside the likes of Robert Indiana and Tom Wesselmann, creating works concerned with representations of everyday life. He set himself apart through a reserved approach, a varied range of subject matter, and set of popular culture icons, such as bathrobes, hearts, tools, and Pinocchio. Often executed in vibrant hues, Dine’s works reflect explorations into the subtleties of color, social connotations, and our relationships to objects.

The Realistic Poet Assassinated (1970), an etching with hand-painted additions, recalls the work of the Surrealists, both in its dreamy composition, and its evocation of the philosophy of Andre Bréton, the movement’s founder, that the simplest surreal act is to fire a revolver into a crowd. In this work, the poet is at top left in a stovepipe hat, depicted in light washes of color, joined by a heart, stars, a bent snub-nose gun, a glove, and a woman’s shoe. The elements combine to form a loose and literary narrative about creative destruction.

Some of Dine’s best-known works feature bathrobes realized in a spectrum of colors. A Robe Coloured with 13 Kinds of Oil Paint (1976) and Self Portrait (Stencil) (1997) employ the garment as stand-ins for personages, including Dine himself. Rendered in fields or color or small daubs of ink, the pieces  resemble and refer to paintings for which Dine is also well known. The warm hues of Self Portrait (Stencil) are inviting and enveloping and though it resembles fashion drawings that imagine an anonymous subject, the work is a specific representation of the artist himself, albeit in an abstracted form. “Everything comes from drawing for me,” says Dine, and here he emphasizes the drawing coming from, and investigating, his self.

A painted etching and a more conventional self-portrait, Unique Hand Painted Self-Portrait (1979) possesses a sense of naturalism: Dine’s face captures his stern mood and attitude, which is reflected in the hands-on-hips pose that his robes assume. His combination of line and color is harmonious, resulting in a fiercely independent image with quick and free strokes that produce a realistic representation of the artist and portray him looking out at the viewer and fearlessly presents himself, unclouded by symbols.

In a more recent work, The Venus Dances (2005), Dine employs the classic form of the Venus de Milo, a recurring motif that is part of his longstanding penchant for appropriation. Dine’s Venus is covered in rolling planes of color that wrap around her lithe body, signalling Dine’s affinity for and facility with color. Like all of his works, it is filled with vivacious beauty and simple pleasure and presents a smart interplay of form and color, ultimately conveying the artist’s unique brand of Pop.

Stephen Dillon

Visit Alan Cristea Gallery at The Armory Show 2015, Pier 92 Modern, Booth 210, March 5–8.

Explore The Armory Show 2015 and Alan Cristea Gallery on Artsy.

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