Jim Dine (US)

1935 Cincinnati, USA

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, illustrator, performance artist, stage designer and poet. He studied art at the Cincinnati Arts Academy (1951–3) and later at the Boston Museum School and Ohio University (1954–7). In 1957 he married Nancy Minto and the following year they moved to New York. Dine’s first involvement with the art world was in his Happenings of 1959–60. These historic theatrical events, for example The Smiling Workman (performed at the Judson Gallery, New York, 1959), took place in chaotic, makeshift environments built by the artist–performer. During the same period he created his first assemblages, which incorporated found materials. Simultaneously he developed the method by which he produced his best known work—paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures that depict and expressively interpret common images and objects.

Clothing and domestic objects featured prominently in Dine’s paintings of the 1960s, with a range of favoured motifs including ties, shoes and bathroom items such as basins, showers and toothbrushes (e.g. Child’s Blue Wall, 1962; Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox A.G.). He was equally preoccupied with the elements of his own profession, for example palettes, paint-boxes and brushes, as well as with a variety of tools, which he regarded as extensions of the hand (e.g. Five Feet of Colorful Tools, 1962, New York, MOMA). As early as 1964 he used an image of a man’s dressing-gown, borrowed from a newspaper advertisement, as the basis for a recurring self-portrait, for example Self-portrait next to a Colored Window (1964; Dallas, TX, Mus. A.). These were followed by portraits of Nancy Dine and by a series of still-lifes, and by other images such as a heart, Venus de Milo, a gnarled tree and a wrought-iron gate, reintroduced in so many guises as to become personal trademarks.

Dine’s method involved repeating his theme again and again, often in several mediums. Through a process of exploration and reinvention the common image lost its place in the public domain and was stamped exclusively with the artist’s signature, becoming his vehicle for communicating a range of emotional and aesthetic intentions. 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. While he was part of a group during the time of the Happenings and was linked with the Pop art movement through his use of subjects from everyday life, he was at odds with Pop’s deadpan style and then with pure abstraction, Minimalism and conceptual art. In the late 1970s and 1980s, however, he was viewed as a forerunner of the figurative and Neo-Expressionist trends.
While Dine has remained devoted to the depiction and incorporation of common objects, elevated to an almost iconic stature, his changing expressive intentions and his experimental approach towards technique have yielded different stylistic results. Although Dine’s stylistic shifts do not follow a clear, linear path, it can generally be stated that his work of the early 1960s is characterized by the aggressive, haphazard energy of his Happenings and the heritage of the Abstract Expressionist gesture. At times his line appears a random scrawl and the image-making brutal. Real objects are often incorporated into the compositions. Later in the 1960s and in the 1970s Dine consciously refined his draughtsmanship and painterly techniques, taking greater care and control to achieve a quieter, more romantic and sensual effect. In the 1980s he found increased confidence with greater emphasis on the grand gesture, yet a more sombre tone.

Dine is an unusually prolific artist, producing large numbers of paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures of diverse scale, as well as illustrated books and stage design. His peripatetic lifestyle has been designed to maximize productivity, as he moves from place to place to take advantage of the numerous opportunities offered an artist of his reputation and to refuel himself through living in different environments. He has always maintained a home base of operation with a studio (1958–68 in New York; 1967–71 in London; 1971–85 in Putney, VT; from 1986 in New York and Washington, CT). He often visits printshops and foundries and has set up dozens of temporary studios in cities all over the USA and Europe in order to focus on special projects or to prepare exhibitions.
Jean E. Feinberg

From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press