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Jim Dine

American Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor, Poet, Conceptual and Performance Artist

Jim Dine Photo

Born: June 16, 1935 - Cincinnati, Ohio

"I would have been quite pleased to have been a pop artist; I was very involved with pop art and with those guys. But let's face it, I wasn't one. I used some popular imagery, objects more than anything else. But I wasn't glorifying consumerism, nothing like that."

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Summary of Jim Dine

Jim Dine has created a vocabulary out of subjects that have a child-like appeal, such as tools, birds, and hearts. These personally nostalgic symbols are also commonplace and universal, creating work that is both autobiographical and open to interpretation. Dine was also instrumental in the first "Happenings," a progenitor of Performance art. These Happenings challenged the seriousness and elitism of Abstract Expressionism, de-emphasizing the art object in favor of a performative, interactive, process. Over his career, Dine has both questioned the status of the artwork and continued a tradition of making work full of symbolism and allegory.

Key Ideas

Dine is inspired by the power of simple images to be both familiar and symbolic. His repetitions of tools, bathrobes, or hearts are easily understood by the viewer, while also suggesting deeper layers of meaning. He often works with subjects and images from his childhood, giving his work both a sense of innocence and shared nostalgia.
Although his strong graphic style, bright colors, and straightforward, popular imagery have often been connected to Pop art, Dine resisted this connection. He saw his work as an extension of Robert Rauschenberg's or Jasper Johns' Neo-Dada art, questioning the power of iconic symbols, rather than a more simplistic celebration of them.
Dine's involvement in the earliest "Happenings" extended his influence beyond traditional art media. The Happenings were an important rejection of the solemnity of Abstract Expressionism and a precedent for Performance art. Furthermore, his treatment of the art object as superfluous in these performances contributed to the conceptualism of art and the decentralization of the object, which has influenced much of postmodern art.
As Conceptual art was emerging, Dine's use of iconic forms and repeated symbols attempted to understand how images create meaning. By singling out simple shapes and objects, and depicting them over and over, Dine suggests that they are important subjects for artistic study. Building on Marcel Duchamp's readymade sculptures, these ordinary objects take on a new, important, meaning solely because they were chosen by the artist and repeatedly studied. Isolating them and framing them in a gallery or museum space, Dine declares them worthy subjects to be celebrated in art, transforming them into something significant. Dine's work in this conceptual vein transforms Duchamp's skeptical gesture into part of a sincere investigation on how the artistic process elevates the ordinary.
Jim Dine Photo

Jim Dine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents were second-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe and practicing Jews, an identity which influenced his artistic career. He later claimed he was "raised in a family of ironmongers and the tools were always around me." His family owned a hardware store, where he gained a deep interest in the power of ordinary objects. He was particularly fascinated by the "metaphorical" or "mythic" quality of the tools of iron-working; they would inspire his works of the early 1960s, where he attached tools to canvases creating combinations of found object and pictorial image.

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