Topics in American Art since 1945

By Lawrence Alloway | Go to book overview

JIM DINE

Plato assigned art to the same category as shadows, images in mirrors, and reflections in water. Art was an untrustworthy form of knowledge, an imitation of higher reality. The tendency of esthetics ever since has been to save art by moving it out of this chancy and unstable realm by stressing its formality, which can be made a metaphor of ideal order. In this way, art, as it approached the ideal, could be made better than the world it imitated. For this reason discussion of figurative art still tends to discount the reality of subject-matter and to stress, instead, prestigeful formal elements. It used to be possible to look at a skull by Cézanne and see only a "spherical form," not an emblem of death. Faced with the subjects of Dine, we are not invited to discover their formal equivalents; nor are we tempted to see the subjects as symbols of vanity, or opulence, or whatever. What we get is the object presented as literally and emphatically as possible.

The question arises: what happens when an artist presents his subjects as literally and emphatically as Dine does? Does he remove his images from the world of imitation? He gives us images of neckties, the same size as life, only buried in paint; or, neckties, partly painted in gaudy facsimile, partly schematic, and partly left as vacant space. Similarly with Beads, a giant ring in which the beads run from three‐ dimensional orbs to flat unshaded circles. These images are incomplete but completely unambiguous. There is no uncertainty about what these signs refer to, but the provisional and arbitrary nature of the signs is ruthlessly celebrated.

Dine refers to hair by covering a canvas with paint tracks like greatly enlarged hairs and by writing in the word "hair" (it might have been "grass"). His Pearls unites the word with a mighty string of pearls (metal-painted halves of rubber balls). René Magritte has written words on paintings, but his words and his images are never congruent; by calling "A" "B," he aimed for poetic disorientation. Dine, on the contrary, presents his image with a maximum unmistakability combined with an absolutely accurate one-word description. Instead of feeling the

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SOURCE: From Jim Dine (New York, 1961), unpaginated, the catalogue of an exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery. Reprinted by courtesy of the gallery.

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Topics in American Art since 1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Topics in American Art Since 1945 *
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 9
  • Introduction 11
  • Acknowledgments 13
  • Abstract Expressionism 15
  • The Biomorphic '40s 17
  • Melpomene and Graffiti - Adolph Gottlieb's Early Work 25
  • The American Sublime 31
  • Barnett Newman - The Stations of the Cross and the Subjects of the Artist 42
  • Jackson Pollock's Black Paintings 52
  • Jackson Pollock's "Psychoanalytic Drawings" 58
  • Willem De Kooning 62
  • The Sixties, I - Hard Edge and Systems 65
  • Leon Polk Smith 67
  • Systemic Painting 76
  • Serial Forms 92
  • Sol Lewitt 96
  • Agnes Martin - (with an Appendix) 100
  • Gesture into Form - The Later Paintings of Norman Bluhm 111
  • The Sixties, II - Pop Art 117
  • Pop Art - The Words 119
  • Jim Dine 123
  • Rauschenberg's Graphics 125
  • Jasper Johns' Map 136
  • Marilyn as Subject Matter 140
  • Roy Lichtenstein's Period Style 145
  • The Reuben Gallery - A Chronology 151
  • In Place 155
  • The Sixties, III - Problems of Representation 161
  • Hi-Way Culture - (with Notes on Alan D'Arcangelo) 163
  • Art as Likeness - (with a Note on Post-Pop Art) 171
  • George Segal 182
  • Photo-Realism 185
  • Art and Interface 193
  • Allan Kaprow, Two Views 195
  • Artists and Photographs 201
  • The Expanding and Disappearing Work of Art 207
  • Stolen - (with Arakawa: an Interview) 213
  • Radio City Music Hall 218
  • Robert Smithson's Development 221
  • Art Criticism and Society 237
  • Notes on Op Art 239
  • The Public Sculpture Problem 245
  • The Uses and Limits of Art Criticism 251
  • Index 271
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