Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969

Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969


Exhibition Comprises First Major Survey of Early Work by Important American Artist


Press Preview: Thursday, February 11, 1999, 10 am to 2 pm

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 88th Street), New York City

Remarks will begin at 11:30 am


From February 12 to May 16, 1999, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will present Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969, the first major survey on the earlywork of this important American artist. The exhibition traces Dine's multi-faceted exploration of personal identity through more than 100 works, including photographs of his environment and performance pieces. During the first ten years of his career, Dine seized on the idea of self-exposure to forge new territory for the possibilities of expression. In doing so, he created a formidable visual language of corporeal motifs that tested the conventions of representation and perception. Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969 has been co-curated by Germano Celant, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, and Clare Bell, Associate Curator for Prints and Drawings at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


Support for this exhibition has been provided by The Florence Gould Foundation.


"This exhibition continues the Guggenheim's commitment to in-depth analysis of the crucial early oeuvre of artists in the collection," said Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. "Dine joins fellow American artists Robert Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthaler, whose early endeavors have been the subject of recent investigations at the Guggenheim."


The exhibition encompasses many of the major mixed-media works Jim Dine created between 1959 and 1969, the same time-frame that traces the trajectory of the increasing use of popular imagery in American art. Though Dine's signature motifs of clothing, tools, painter's palettes, and hearts dovetailed with the familiar images of Pop art, his use of such commonplace objects was deeply personal, derived from his interior world of memories rather than from Pop art's preoccupation with the conceits of mass culture. Dine's work is thus marked by a deep sense of introspection and an abiding interest in the act of painting as a means of unveiling the self.


By bringing together works from Dine's various series, the exhibition provides a striking view of the magnitude of Dine's early achievements and their formidable contribution to the succeeding generation of artists concerned with the politics of the body. The exhibition investigates how Dine developed his personal iconography by drawing on the vernacular of children's art and the carnivalesque to foster a sense of profound psychological resonance in his works.

Dine arrived in New York from Ohio in 1958 and quickly established himself in the avant-garde art scene. In 1959, along with several other artists, Dine began showing his work at the newly established Judson Gallery located in the basement of the Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. It was there in 1960 that Dine created the first of his interiors, The House, as part of "Ray-Gun," a two-person exhibition with Claes Oldenburg that also featured the latter's environment The Street. During the course of the show Dine performed his first theatrical piece, The Smiling Workman, as part of "Ray Gun Spex," three evenings devoted to individual theatrical pieces by Dine, Oldenburg, and several other artists. The notoriety that followed this showcase did much to validate this burgeoning art form. Dine's association with Judson and the Reuben Gallery provided him with the opportunity to create other performance pieces and, in the course of one year, Dine created three other theatrical pieces, Vaudeville, Car Crash, and A Shining Bed, which added to his growing renown as one of the brightest new stars of his generation. It was during this time that Dine created such totemic works as Green Suit (1959), Untitled (Winged Victory) (1959), and Bedspring (1960), assemblages that incorporate discarded clothing, bedsprings, and other trash salvaged from the city's streets.

Choosing to immerse himself in painting, Dine quickly gave up creating performance art. By the end of 1961, he had completed a series of childlike, collage-style paintings, many of which incorporated quotidian objects and their written equivalents on the canvas. In works such as Teeth (1960-61), Hair (1961), Coat (1961), and Pearls (1961), Dine conjoined the explosive quality of abstraction with the peculiarities of real life. Like his Green Suit, these works and others that followed are imbued with an eccentric quality that evokes the freakish quality of nature. Dine's deep-seated personal phobias, along with the burden of fame, forced him to seek comfort in the isolation of his studio, and he withdrew from the social scene of the New York art world. By 1962, he was immersed in psychoanalysis, an experience that would inform his subsequent work. His series of Tool paintings, made over the course of one month, were bound up with the artist's vivid memories spent working in his family's hardware stores in Ohio and Kentucky. In his next series, based on his own childhood recollections and the wallpaper and objects of his children's rooms, items such as mirrored medicine cabinets, toiletries, and metal fixtures involve the viewer physically in his remembrances.

In the final years represented by this exhibition, references to the artist himself become even more direct, as in his 1963 canvases featuring painter's palettes and his 1964 group of self-portraits inspired by men's suits; these were later followed by works based on the image of an uninhabited bathrobe, which he first saw in a newspaper advertisement. In 1965, Dine began making three-dimensional bronze and aluminum casts of familiar objects, continuing his trajectory from using junk to employing store-bought items to finally making his own objects. Dine seized on the processes of duplication, repetition, elongation, and enlargement to create a series of hybrid realities in his sculptures of body parts, clothing, furniture, tools, and passageways. His sculptures became increasingly large and his interest in manipulating the space of the viewer became more pronounced. This tendency is evident in his two monumental pieces incorporating images of a heart and hand, from his series of works entitled Nancy and I at Ithaca (1966-69). By 1967, Dine finally had the emotional stability to leave his studio in New York and move to London. In the year that followed he did no painting, instead throwing himself into printmaking, drawing, and writing. Memory was still Dine's driving force, and when he returned to the canvas to create Name Paintings (1968-69), he began to use its surface as a vast journal for his recollections. Dine's concerns during this decade are summed up in Colour of the Month of August (1969), in which bold strokes of paint are juxtaposed with the names of the colors scrawled on the canvas. This piece is a culmination of Dine's work from the period and of the uniquely personal visual language that he created to reference the self.

A fully-illustrated catalogue, published by the Guggenheim Museum and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., will accompany the exhibition. It is the first catalogue to document the early years of Dine's career and includes rare documentary photographs. In addition to essays by Mr. Celant and Ms. Bell, the book provides an interview with the artist charting his initial development. The catalogue also includes rarely published materials on each of Dine's theatrical pieces, as well as an essay by Julia Blaut on Dine's performances and environments. A chronology of Dine's career from 1959 to 1969 and selected bibliography are also included.

PUBLIC PROGRAMS In conjunction with Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969, the Guggenheim Museum will present a wide-ranging program of activities for the public. All of the following programs are held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum under the auspices of The Sackler Center for Arts Education, unless otherwise noted. The following schedule is subject to change; please visit the admissions desk to confirm daily schedules. For more information on any of the public programs, please call the Museum Box Office at (212) 423-3587.

Lectures, Tours, and Symposia On Tuesday, March 2, March 23 and April 13, at 7 pm, the Guggenheim Museum will present two lectures and an informal discussion with the artist in which his life and work will be discussed in-depth. Lecturers include noted art historian and critic Marco Livingstone (March 2), writer and critic Joseph Ruzicka (March 23), and the curators of the show along with Dine himself (April 13). The series provides a concentrated look at the underlying themes of Dine's work and methods. Admission is $10 ($7 for members, seniors and students.)

As part of the continuing series "A Curatorial Eye," there will be tours of the exhibition on Friday, March 19, at 12 pm, and April 16, at 2 pm. The first tour will be led by co-curator Clare Bell, the second by project curatorial assistant Kara Vander Weg. These programs are limited to 30 people. Tickets are free with museum admission; reservations will be taken at the museum's admissions desk on the mornings of the programs only.

Educational Films In cooperation with Outside in July, Inc., a not-for-profit arts and education corporation, and its producer/director, Nancy Dine, the Guggenheim Museum will present two evenings of documentary films exploring the work of Jim Dine. Taking place on Tuesday, February 23 and March 9, at 7 pm, each night will offer three films examining different stages in Dine's development as an artist: "Jim Dine: Childhood Stories" (1991), "Jim Dine: A Self Portrait on the Walls" (1995), and "All About Looking" (1996). Tickets are free with museum admission.

Programs for Families On Sunday, March 28, from 2 to 4 pm, Charo Garaigorta will lead a workshop for children and their parents in which Jim Dine's use of everyday objects in his art will be explored. Choosing one or various everyday small objects (a comb, a toothbrush, or a coin) children will make various interpretations through drawing and collage. The fee is $10 per child ($5 for members). Preregistration is required.

Programs for Educators Educator courses help educators integrate current exhibitions into their own classroom curricula. On Saturday, March 6, from 10 am to 1 pm, Elizabeth Bardt-Pellerin will lead a course introducing educators to the early years of creation by Jim Dine, discussing works and ideas from the exhibition. The $40 fee includes an educational packet and slides. Payment and preregistration are required by February 24.

The exhibition will travel to The Cincinnati Art Museum, where it will be on display from October 22, 1999, to January 9, 2000.

January 25, 1999

Director of Public Affairs
Guggenheim Museum
Telephone: 212/423-3840
Telefax: 212/423-3787
E-mail: bennis@guggenheim.org

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