Jim Dine, artist, in conversation with Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, Nationa...
In over four decades, American artist Jim Dine has adopted an impressive range of media--painting, performance, drawing, poetry, printmaking, book design, sculpture, photography, and more. He is among America's greatest living draftsmen, and his images of tools, large-scale nudes, self-portraits, and studies from nature and after antiquity are among the most beautiful and accomplished drawings of our time. His art has been the subject of numerous individual and group shows and is in the permanent collections of museums around the world.
Dine rose to fame in the early sixties, when his name--nationally and internationally--came to be linked with pop art. Yet his relationship to pop's cool demeanor was an uneasy fit. He persistently chose imagery with which he had a personal connection favoring the expressive and handmade over the impassive and mechanical. "Pop is concerned with exteriors," the artist stated in 1966. "I'm concerned with interiors."
Jim Dine was born in 1935 in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he was twelve, his mother died and he went to live with his maternal grandparents shortly thereafter. His grandfather owned a hardware store where Dine worked throughout his youth and came to know and appreciate the beauty of hand tools. It is not surprising then that he would turn to them as a theme later on. Dine states that he adopted tools as a subject "because they felt right...like relatives...as though their last name was Dine."
Dine received a B.F.A. in 1957 from Ohio University and enrolled in its graduate program the following year. But in 1958 he moved to New York, where he became associated with artists whose involvement with Happenings and art environments proved influential. He achieved his first public notice in 1960 when he presented The House in conjunction with Claes Oldenburg's The Street, as well as four brief Happenings at the Judson and Reuben Galleries in lower Manhattan.
Dine's reputation soared in the early sixties. Although engaged principally in making paintings and mixed-media assemblages in the first half of that decade, he never stopped drawing. And as he revised his artistic ambitions throughout the seventies, Dine turned to drawing almost exclusively. The medium played a fundamental role in the transformation, beginning with changes indicated in tool drawings and collages from the early seventies, to the then radical shift to life drawing in 1974. Thirty years later, drawing remains at the core of Dine's range of expression. Through a restricted choice of subjects, which continue to be reinvented in various guises--tools, hearts, trees, birds, among others--Dine presents compelling stand-ins for himself and enigmatic metaphors for his art. Since the last major survey of Dine's drawings over fifteen years ago, the medium has served as an indispensable component of his creative endeavor, in many ways representing the essence of his artistic achievement.