From 14 February to 23 April 2018, the Centre Pompidou
is exhibiting the remarkable donation Jim Dine recently made to the Musée National dArt Moderne: 26 paintings and sculptures produced between 1961 and 2016. A gift through which, as the artist puts it, he wanted to «pay back a cultural and personal debt to France» namely the many years spent in Paris, which introduced him to «an aesthetic» that has enlightened his artistic decisions. In acclaiming this gesture, the exhibition strikingly retraces a unique career that is still as productive as ever.
Jim Dine has occupied a singular place in art for over half a century. Born in 1935 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he moved to New York in 1958, where he began working as an artist and became well-known for the Environments and Happenings he created with Claes Oldenburg. A central figure in a style probably labelled too hastily as Pop Art, he moved away from it, acknowledging to this day what he owes to the work of De Kooning and abstract expressionism. In the 1970s, he turned to drawing and engraving, embarking on a radical process of reflection that took him back to figuration at the end of the decade.
In the early 1980s, Dine appropriated the stylistic features of ancient cultures, artistic icons and vernacular images, developing a style that reflected forms of the past and was altogether postmodern, based on a love of manual work and imbued with personal symbols.
The donation, exhibited in its entirety, includes the artists very earliest works, in which he established his visual vocabulary and highly original themes. Tools play a decisive role and immediately give his work a specific dimension, mingling his personal history with the search for an identity he has never abandoned. Some magnificent assemblages combining highly composite materials illustrate Dines prolific explorations in the early 1970s. The themes recurrent in his work hearts, bathrobes and other everyday objects in his life can be seen in several of the pieces on show. The first sculptures, revisiting icons of art, like the Venus de Milo and Fayoum masks, rub shoulders with the polychrome Pinocchios that became like Dines alter egos. There are also trellises and metal screens on which Dine has hung various favourite objects and tools like relics, such as the fragments of bodies that fill his previous works. Lastly, large, free paintings using a wealth of materials, in colours dramatically different from the artists austere, almost monochrome early works, illustrate his liberated style and inexhaustible desire to produce works untrammelled by any constraints.
An impassioned, restless man always on the move, unable to settle anywhere, he still travels the world from America (where he was born and still lives sporadically) to Europe and France, where he now plans to spend most of his time. Because as we know, Jim Dine loves France.