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Victor Coleman

Look at My Product
Notes, More or Less Specific, on Jim Dine

artscanada, December, 1970
[ 1,163 words ]


Jim Dine's Four Toronto Hearts, shown recently at the Dunkleman Gallery in Toronto, were done this year especially, he says, for this show because, as he also says, he has some attachment, having shown here a few years ago at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Dine Oldenburg Segal exhibition. So these Toronto Hearts are a few nice memories upon which he has hung a number of old coats, a sweater — all merely aspects of the real. 'They're very loose . . . in the best kind of way ... like running and jumping.' Dine is an habitual runner who claims to do four miles a day, moving, as it were, quickly from one conglomerate of objects to the next, in his life; be they friends, or those other aspects of his livelihood: disdainfully or not. A Good Humour. 'It's like an autobiography, going on all the time ... those coats and stuff, just stuff that's there ... like pieces of paint. I mean, that's all like paint. Paint is just an object ... a piece of red ... a sweater... it all seems to be the same.' Dine's engagement with the heart (as symbol: the emotional landscape) has gone on somewhat longer than he'd originally expected; a background to the constantly changing nature of his ideals and sense of formalization. His paintings and graphics are like 'little theatres themselves. Many of the objects are presences on this stage I've made.' From the days when he was knee-high to Pollock & Kline, through the deliberate theatre of happenings in New York City, Dine has carried his heart, mottled, with excellent sight and intellection, most recently to London, England (Dine from Ohio) where he and his family have been expatriates since 1967. 'Suddenly we were that first generation to really have a career. I was two years old. I wasn't 44 and still hangin' around bars and drinking like that generation before me had. Suddenly there was that thing about careers ... which got in everybody's way. It wasn't until 1966 or so that I came back to the idea that I didn't want any of that bullshit: it was much more fun to have friends... but I mean that's what happened ... one of the reasons I started to write poems.' Last year, along with a collaborative effort with photographer Lee Friedlander called Works from the Same House (Photographs and Etchings), Asa Benveniste's Trigram Press published a book of Jim Dine's poems and drawings called Welcome Home Lovebirds. The poems show a marked influence of those writers now referred to with almost sickening regularity as The New York School; and I suppose Dine's poems do fit into the genre, if you need that; but I prefer to think that such things travel in parallels, and that there is no such thing as a 'mainstream'. It all flows / to cohere. There is an obvious surreality about the poems, i.e., odd linguistic juxtapositions (anti-rhetoric); but a general irreverence (a gentle irrelevance?), and I get the sense of these poems as teddy bear lyrics, laughing poems secure in their wisdom that they can, in the end, only reach as far as their own hearts.      MY SON
     SPIT ON ME
     THIS MORNING

or      Is you is or is you aint a
     deep person?

'I was lonesome ... it was a way to correspond with, like [Ron] Padgett and [Ted] Berrigan. I wasn't very well educated for one thing so I never read, like, a lot of poems. But I was aware of Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch, 'cause Kenneth was from my home town ... and John Ashbery ... I never understood him too much, I mean, I like him, but I don't understand him ... & [Robert] Creeley started to mean a lot.'      Facts in 1969      making a painting using all sorts of painting
     techniques I'm making a long painting using all sorts of painting
     techniques paint staining with all kinds of plastic paint washy oil
     watercolours (German intense dyes)
     big colour arenas hard thin lines damar varnished glaze parts
     'THAT SPRAY CAN' colours wiped on with a rag with my hand
     not an abstract painting but a diagram
     pieces of paint colours
     maybe labels maybe not
     Kitaj is jewish
     unbeleeeeeevale
     Kitaj is jewish
     a kike
     boy now jewisher
     making a long painting made of little paintings each one is 6 X 8
     inches
     going all in a line all 60 of them up the wall around the doors down
     the stairs thru the door and shake hands
     Kitaj is jewish
     rocks arranged like a heart
     made of feathers


Dine continues to show in galleries and make the international art scene, primarily to make money. He's very bald about it; but I found him somewhat disenchanted in the 'context' of a commercial gallery. Regardless of the good wine and soft sell nature of the 'product' end of things, Dine paints and draws and will seemingly do so for some time; he believes quite strongly that men will always have the urge to put their colour upon some surface, and step back and wonder at the beauty of it — made. Early in 1970, The Whitney Museum in New York showed a retrospective of Jim Dine, which he says 'finally put an end to the lie that I was a "pop" artist, which I never felt I was anyway ... Not that I'd mind being called that, just that I felt it was inaccurate; because I think that all those "pop" artists talked about outside landscape; whereas mine is all interior. I had nothing to do with media ... products; I didn't think it was a phenomenon to have grown up with rock & roll or Campbell soup. The subject matter I was always interested in was my own landscape, my own life ... I still find that it sustains me — that's the long voyage.' 'Twenty-five feet in front of me the ocean is stopping and going back out in what looks like curls of grey iron, in fact the entire ocean looks like an immense sheet of rippling iron rising up, tilting toward me, absolutely unbroken except for a large brown bean floating in its midst. My eyes converge on this object, shining, drifting, rimmed with darkness, as it approaches. I watch it, hypnotized but not really interested. Unable to be interested. It comes closer. Then, suction causing the water to break and fly up, it bursts above the water and gives a deep throaty cry — BBRRRAAAGGHHH!!!!! Now I see its powerful hairy torso covered with slime and glistening with water streaming off. It clumps up the beach, stomping the sand, moaning and then laughing and raising its eyebrows and smiling. '"Give it a whirl, Ronnie!" it cries and runs on toward the house.'   — Ron Padgett, in The Whitney Museum Catalogue for the Jim Dine Retrospective, 1970.
artscanada, December, 1970

Text: © Victor Coleman. All rights reserved.

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