Museum Stories

Are people on Respirators Really Thinking About Rembrandt? – Jim Dine on His Show at Galerie Templon, Personal Histories and the Role of Art in Crisis (or Not)

Yasmin Ozkan 19 May 2020 min Read

As Galerie Templon wrap up a retrospective exhibition of his iconic prints, we interview Jim Dine.

Jim Dine has occupied an individual position throughout his career, gaining acclaim without neatly fitting into a box. Since pioneering the Happening and Pop art movements, his practice has encompassed painting, sculpture, performance, photography and printmaking. Fast forward to 2020 and he is turning 85 with an undeniable legacy. Renowned for fusing personal histories with universal objects, Dine’s many creative visions have evolved with him. Journey through his personal iconography, as well as his ongoing romance with printmaking and his thoughts on art in crisis, in this interview.

Jim Dine, Galerie Templon
Interview with Jim Dine: Installation View of The Classic Prints at Galerie Templon. Photo: Bertrand Huet Tutti. Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.

Personal Iconography

The Classic Prints spans 1981-2015, presenting twenty-four works and witnessing the development of some of Dine’s most recognized motifs. Revisiting hearts, bath robes, tools and Venus de Milo throughout his career, he intertwines his personal history each time. ‘I am an artist, who has a repertoire of things I like to make . . . I am 85 and I am not taking knives and forks, necessarily, you know. I didn’t make a portrait of my rolling pin’. Dine continues, ‘All of [my prints] are self-portraits that contain my personal history’.

Jim Dine, Color on Her
Interview with Jim Dine: Jim Dine, Color on Her, 2009. Courtesy Templon, Paris – Bruxelles © Jim Dine.

Venus de Milo is a figure Dine has re-imagined repeatedly and is indeed an example of his sentimentality. ‘I was initially drawn to Venus de Milo as a child because my mother introduced me to classical work’. He explains ‘we had photographs at home of Venus de Milo, of Winged victory at Samtheres . . . they hold a romance that I associate with my mother and the culture she gave me’.

As with his Venus depictions, Dine’s work is firmly rooted in himself and his memories. ‘It is auto-biographical . . . my creativity has always been introspective, it has always been about me, what else can art be about, even if it was a still life, it would be my interpretation’. He affirms ‘everything I do is a self-portrait, I think that is the case with all artists’.

Jim Dine, Galerie Templon
Interview with Jim Dine: Installation View of The Classic Prints at Galerie Templon. Photo: Bertrand Huet Tutti. Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.

Dine has previously said that he is an artist concerned with interiors rather than exteriors. When asked about the role of art in times of crisis, Dine responds ‘None, the only role of art is for the artists, not for anybody else. In a time of crisis do you really think people on respirators are thinking about Rembrandt?’.

The Lasting Magic of Printmaking

At 17, Dine lived with his grandparents in Ohio and read Paul Sachs’ Modern Prints and Drawings; this sparked what would become a lifelong love of printmaking. Despite going on to explore many other mediums throughout his career, printing remains dear to him. Dine wanted to ‘know what I am going to get when I get it back’, especially as a child growing up with dyslexia. He also loved ‘the hands on’ nature of printing, ‘using different techniques and being able to bring up an image in a wood cut’.

Jim Dine, Galerie Templon
Interview with Jim Dine: Installation View of The Classic Prints at Galerie Templon. Photo: Bertrand Huet Tutti. Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.

Although Dine can come across as a solitary character, he particularly values the collaborative nature of printmaking. ‘I like the camaraderie of printmaking, you know artists are lonely beasts, we work by ourselves . . . here you get to work with people you collaborate with and if it works then you have made a friend’. However, due to the current social distance culture, Dine naturally finds himself needing to resort to other practices. ‘Well I have had to, I can’t go to print shops, I am stuck in my studio’.

Above all, The Classic Prints exemplifies decades of Dine’s achievement, highlighting the staples of a long career punctuated by self-examination. In each individual print, he imparts a fragment of himself: a memory, an emotion, a life-long fascination. Concerned with what resides within, Dine’s ethos rings true. ‘I have done what I do, I do what I can, I am trying to stay alive’.

You can catch the last few days of The Classic Prints via Galerie Templon’s virtual viewing room, ending Saturday.

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