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September 28, 2011 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Joni Mitchell recently and infamously called him a "plagiarist", and now, Bob Dylan's art show at Gagosian has aroused some similar suspicions. Did Gagosian simply market the exhibition incorrectly?
posted by ReeMonster (102 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I suppose the answer is blowing...aww fuck it.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:18 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To borrow from Calvin & Hobbes: A painting of a photograph: "Low art."
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:18 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hehe, floyd.. gotcha.
posted by ReeMonster at 1:19 PM on September 28, 2011


Seems to me Dylan comes right out and says it:
I paint mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind the curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design.
posted by swift at 1:21 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chances of Dylan being taken to court and fined $20,000 per infringement - zilch. Chances of Joe Blow getting his arse hauled for sharing a Dylan song on da nottyweb - rather higher.

Someone should write a protest song about it.
posted by Devonian at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


These are cover versions that remain faithful to the spirit of the originals.
posted by not_on_display at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, what I meant to say was this.
posted by Devonian at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm going to take a photograph of Dylan's paintings of photographs and sell it for $10M at auction. THERE'S PRECEDENT.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dylan is famously a borrower. See:

Who’s This Guy Dylan Who’s Borrowing Lines From Henry Timrod? (More on Dylan lifting from Timrod)
"“The Ballad of Hollis Brown" takes its melody from a 1920s ballad, “Pretty Polly.”*
His album "Love and Theft" lifts lines directly from (weirdly) Dr. Junichi Saga's ''Confessions of a Yakuza''*
Heck, a poem he write as a child was pretty directly lifted from a Hank Snow song.*

I suppose how you feel about this depends on whether you think art is a wholly original creation or is patched together from existing cultural works, and how comfortable you are with the patching being uncredited and direct. Dylan comes from a folk tradition that was historically a lot like the earliest primordial swamp, when organisms would just swap proteins and whatnot without a sense of ownership. But that's not the dominant model today, and wasn't when Dylan began working, and so he's going to face accusations of plagiarism as long as he keeps working that way, which will, presumably, be for as long as he lives.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:32 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent
When I paint my your masterpiece

Not everything, apparently.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:33 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


argh.

When I paint my your masterpiece
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:34 PM on September 28, 2011


Dylan can do no wrong. Sergei Petrov told me so.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:36 PM on September 28, 2011


Remember that girl who won a prize from a canadian newspaper for a painting of a photo? I think they revoked the prize

My argument at the time was that artists paint human made works all the time, buildings, statues, fountains, boats.

The argument that is was plagarism was that the original artist had created the composition and the painter stole it. Nobody is going to think the painter is trying to claim authorship of a statue the painted, but if the original work was itself an image, that causes confusion.

Dunnno, obviously a complex issue. Isn't one of the most expensive photographs ever a picture of a marlboro ad?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:37 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goddammit I thought this thread was going to be about Joni Mitchell.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:37 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dylan has been rewriting other people's songs and claiming them as his own for pretty much his whole career.

Just a couple of examples off the top of my head:

His 1970 album Self Portrait includes a cover of It Hurts Me Too, with Dylan claiming authorship.

His song Bob Dylan's Dream uses the melody and a number of lyrical ideas from Lady Franklin's Lament, although I think he may have acknowledged the derivation.

Mostly, he takes from songs in the public domain. However, I have a friend who was friends with Dave Van Ronk and she quotes Van Ronk as saying anything you played in front of Bob was likely to show up later in his recordings.
posted by tdismukes at 1:37 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


As image recognition systems like TinEye and Google Similar Images come into their own, this kind of appropriation will be increasingly exposed.

The same thing would happen if the full corpus of Google Books were opened up; just imagine searching for key phrases and finding them across hundreds of texts.

I don't like his paintings, which makes me less sympathetic to his re-use without attribution.
posted by fake at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2011


He's an artist. He don't look back.
posted by Trurl at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, Joni Mitchell is notoriously cranky.
posted by Trurl at 1:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Goddammit I thought this thread was going to be about Joni Mitchell.

How about it. Morgellon's? That's freaky, and sad.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't liked his work since he switched to electric brushes.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Obligatory link to pages detailing Hockney's "Optics" hypothesis.
posted by pjdoland at 1:43 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


JUDAS
posted by shakespeherian at 1:43 PM on September 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, if I want to feel bad about a fallen idol, I'll start with Joni Mitchell; besides the Morgellon's nonsense, she slut-shames Grace Slick and Janis Joplin and blames everything bad since 1980 on Madonna. Sheesh.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:46 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love Joni's critique of Dylan because she's spot on. For me it's not a problem that he's a fake and a thief—for her it's all that matters.

And if you don't know late Joni, here's maybe the best Joni on YouTube
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:56 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'll tell you one thing he didn't steal from anyone... his voice....
posted by HuronBob at 2:03 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If someone suffering from Morgellons called me a plagiarist, I'd not feel too bad about it. Smile and nod, walk away.
posted by polywomp at 2:18 PM on September 28, 2011


his voice....

A voice that came from you and me?
posted by sageleaf at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2011


The way I see it, ... you just can't win it. Everybody's in it for their own gain; you can't please 'em all. There's always somebody calling you down.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, it gets so lonely when you're walking and the street is full of strangers. All the news of home you read... more about the war and the bloody changes.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:26 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, as with so many scandals, if Dylan had been straightforward about it all, there might well have been no scandal. If he had framed his project as "I'm reinterpreting some classic old imagery in my own paint medium," there might have been some eye rolling from folks who don't like the conceptual aspects of the mod'ren art, but for most it would have been accepted as a valid project. Instead, by pretending disingenuously that these are original paintings somehow (as the exhibition description certainly implies), he in fact looks like a fraud. Kind of sad.
posted by aught at 2:30 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, as with so many scandals, if Dylan had been straightforward about it all, there might well have been no scandal.

This is sort of why I'm assuming he wasn't straightforward about it.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose how you feel about this depends on whether you think art is a wholly original creation or is patched together from existing cultural works, and how comfortable you are with the patching being uncredited and direct.

I have no problem with borrowing, even directly. It's the uncredited part that bugs. A painting of a Bresson photograph? Sure, just make sure it's clear. Instead you get busted and look like a cheat.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:31 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Earlier this year Dylan had his Brazil Series shown in Copenhagen and it attracted a somewhat decently sized protest gathering of local artists. They would have preferred if more local artists were shown at the gallery, as local artists usually do. Pretty normal from that "boo pop-art" angle, although it is an international collection and not some local venue, so maybe a slightly off choice.

Still, it was kind of surreal to see Dylan on the other side of a protest (even just as a proxy). The times they are a changin'
posted by Winnemac at 2:34 PM on September 28, 2011


Dylan comes from a folk tradition that was historically a lot like the earliest primordial swamp, when organisms would just swap proteins and whatnot without a sense of ownership.

There's a good argument that all periods of intense artistic innovation proceed that way. Creativity is social and collective at least as much as individual and private. A lot of different musical and intellectual traditions reached a peak at once in Dylan's early work. Like almost every great American musician Dylan stole elements from all over but his fusion of those elements was brilliantly innovative and creative. If early Dylan isn't original than no American musician has been.

But that's not the dominant model today,

right -- because everybody is obsessed with squeezing out as much money as possible out of 'intellectual property'. Which can be harmful to both artistic and economic innovation when taken too far.
posted by zipadee at 2:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


If Mitchell seems ornery, it may simply be because she is feeling better. Last year, the singer announced that she suffers from Morgellons syndrome, a rare skin condition

Poor lady needs help.

Still, it was kind of surreal to see Dylan on the other side of a protest (even just as a proxy). The times they are a changin'

It's at least 30 years (since Hurricane) that Bob has portrayed himself as a protest singer.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is, as with so many scandals, if Dylan had been straightforward about it all, there might well have been no scandal.

I guess this means that if I start plagiarizing stuff, I'll be rich and famous like Bob Dylan, too. Talent has nothing to do with it!
posted by KokuRyu at 2:43 PM on September 28, 2011


"Bob is not authentic at all."

Big words for someone who's performed in blackface.
posted by dobbs at 2:51 PM on September 28, 2011


Chances of Dylan being taken to court and fined $20,000 per infringement - zilch.

Don't be so sure. Magnum is very defensive of its members' rights, and Dylan obviously has deep pockets. Even a first-year associate could litigate this one.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:59 PM on September 28, 2011


Insofar as Joni did perform in blackface (questionable: she wore black face paint to closely mimic an actual black person, not the historic caricature that blackface usually connotes), that was an intentional and clearly seen decision to dress up. She wasn't trying to be pull one over on her audience and appear as something she isn't.

... because everybody is obsessed with squeezing out as much money as possible out of 'intellectual property'

There's also an obsession with originality and the hope in every young artist that they'll be the next big auteur. The artists that resonate the most steep themselves in the cultures they live in and weave their art from the threads that surround them—the lone genius artist can make brilliant work but often only speaks to a small community. A focus on being new and original keeps lots of art at the margins.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:09 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are cover versions that remain faithful to the spirit of the originals.

When Bowie plays "The Man Who Sold The World", he still gets kids telling him that it's great that he's doing Nirvana covers. So it goes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Joni Mitchell is a close comparison to Andy Rooney at a younger age when he first started to go crackpotty. I heard her on NPR around five years ago and Teri Gross was interviewing her in the very Teri fawning fashion and Teri said something about getting older (Teri ain't exactly a spring chicken herself) and Mitchell just went off on her as a matter of principle that the two things you don't ask a guest about are their age or their weight.

Other than that it was a really good interview. She talked about how when she first started touring from folk house to folk house her set got mauled by the M.C. with: you can't sing X because that song belongs to A here and you can't sing Y because that song belongs to B here and you can't sing Z because that song belongs to C here and that was the impetus for her to start writing songs--because otherwise she didn't have anything to sing that she really liked.

Also she had some alternative therapy (herbal?) for her post polio syndrome that she claimed beat the hell out of conventional medicine.
posted by bukvich at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2011


Earlier this year Dylan had his Brazil Series shown in Copenhagen and it attracted a somewhat decently sized protest gathering of local artists. They would have preferred if more local artists were shown at the gallery, as local artists usually do.

Yeah, when I heard Gagosian, I just could not believe it, they should know better. This is what is known as a "Vanity Show" and usually you have to pay the gallery to show your crap art. The way you know it's a Vanity Show is that it's a big name from outside the art world, you never heard of him doing visual art before, and when you see it, you realize you would never go out of your way to see such poor quality work unless the guy was famous.

I know painters that had far more talent as undergrads than Dylan has, and they gave up painting because they couldn't get any gallery to show their work. Mr. Zimmerman, you have diminished the art world, you have occupied space that should be given to real artists. It would have been better if your works had never been exhibited. You should inflict this crap on your close friends, who will humor you and tell you how great it is. The public won't humor you.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:40 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you seen the exhibit?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:41 PM on September 28, 2011


I've seen enough.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:45 PM on September 28, 2011


Think of it this way: a Bob Dylan show provides the gallery with the revenue it needs to put on shows by lesser-known artists.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:47 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gagosian has plenty of revenue.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:50 PM on September 28, 2011


Cite?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on September 28, 2011


Apparently you don't know who Gagosian is. Larry Gagosian is one of the wealthiest art dealers in the world. He has been known to pay tens of millions of dollars for works in the secondary market by artists he represents, setting auction records for those artists, primarily to increase the value of the works he represents in the primary market.

Yes, he has plenty of revenue.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:59 PM on September 28, 2011


Cite?

US dealer tops poll as art world's most powerful

From 2004, but you get the idea.
Dealers who track how he prices his gallery shows estimate he sells upwards of $1 billion worth of art a year…

He flies in a roughly $40 million Bombardier Global Express private jet and has a personal chef on call at his Madison Avenue headquarters. He has homes in New York, the Hamptons and St. Bart’s in addition to his home in Los Angeles…
Larry Gogosian, Billionaire

Yeah, Gagosian certainly doesn't need the money. And it's not the first time his gallery has had a pretty major IP problem ...

French Photographer Patrick Cariou on His Copyright Suit Victory Against Richard Prince and Gagosian
posted by mrgrimm at 4:00 PM on September 28, 2011


Think of it this way: a Bob Dylan show provides the gallery with the revenue it needs to put on shows by lesser-known artists.

Um.... This is Larry Gagosian we're talking about. He (a) has plenty of money and (b) doesn't do "lesser-known artists". He's arguably the most important gallerist in the world. By the time you get there, you're not lesser known anymore.
posted by The Bellman at 4:01 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And this is what's so galling about Gagosian showing Dylan. The works are crap (or if we were trying to be kind, in an art historical context, we would say "the paintings are without merit"). By showing Dylan in his gallery, he is declaring those piece of crap amateur paintings belong in the context of the worlds' greatest painters.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:04 PM on September 28, 2011


he is declaring those piece of crap amateur paintings belong in the context of the worlds' greatest painters.

To be honest, they do. Fame counts more than talent in the art world just like anywhere else. Or do you think Paris Hilton is a great singer and Ethan Hawke is a great novelist?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


What you say makes sense, kind of, intellectually and aesthetically, but is it worth getting worked up about? It's not as though Gagosian seems to be doing anything new, and, if your description of him is true (yes, I know nothing about the art business), he's a speculator, nothing more.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:09 PM on September 28, 2011


The yaoi manga artist Youka Nitta got raked over the coals for something similar a few years ago. She copied a lot of photos over years, but at least had the decency to add lots of pretty naked men kissing each other.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:31 PM on September 28, 2011


I assume that everything Dylan does that seems to be a mistake or plagiarism is simply beyond my understanding, and that when I have lived and studied for a few more decades I will begin to approach the wisdom that is Robert Zimmerman.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:44 PM on September 28, 2011


Besides, if Dylan was a DJ he'd be 'sampling' and if he ripped off shots from John Carpenter's They Live he'd be painting posters for Obama.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:45 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be honest, they do. Fame counts more than talent in the art world just like anywhere else.

You don't become a "blue chip" artist because of fame, you become famous because of your talent. Look at the other artists exhibiting at Gagosian now. These are artists famous enough to be known by their last name: Rauschenberg, Serra, Ruscha, Warhol, Murakami, Picasso, Tansey, etc. Dylan is not anywhere near their caliber. Plagiarizing world famous artists like Cartier-Bresson really just shows you are so naive that you don't even know the artist you're plagiarizing is instantly recognizable.

Yes, galleries speculate on artwork. That is the whole point of a gallery, they represent an artist and tries to build his reputation (and thus his sales prices) and place him within a greater context with world class artists. So they might speculate on some unknown 22 year old junkie whose works sell for a few thousand dollars, connect him with other artists, and his works eventually sell for millions of dollars.

That is an entirely different matter from a "crossover" musician who wants to cash in on his reputation in another world, where he obviously has no talent. Just because you made big money in music, doesn't mean you're entitled to make big money in visual art. It is more typical for a celebrity Vanity Art exhibit to donate sales proceeds to charity (like the last, tragically awful Vanity Show I encountered, by Keith Richards and Ron Wood).
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:52 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]




"Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception."

Well, yes. He admits it. False pasts, false names. He's not a liar, though. He's a Trickster, the last incarnation of the old Trickster gods.

blames everything bad since 1980 on Madonna

She's right about this. Kesha? Gaga?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:00 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone should write a protest song about it.

I'm on it. Working title: A Kick in the SESAC.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:02 PM on September 28, 2011


You don't become a "blue chip" artist because of fame, you become famous because of your talent. Look at the other artists exhibiting at Gagosian now. These are artists famous enough to be known by their last name: Rauschenberg, Serra, Ruscha, Warhol, Murakami, Picasso, Tansey, etc.

You claim to be talking about "talent" but your metric for success is that the artist has become a brand (ie, they are known by their last names). It's curious you include Warhol and Murakami on your list.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:06 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is.
posted by squalor at 5:06 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reagan. Reagan. Reagan.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:14 PM on September 28, 2011


Robert Zimmerman>Bob Dylan> Loki
posted by bjgeiger at 5:18 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You claim to be talking about "talent" but your metric for success is that the artist has become a brand (ie, they are known by their last names). It's curious you include Warhol and Murakami on your list.

I'm not using at THE metric. These artists made their mark and then became famous. Warhol and Murakami are no exceptions. While they may have used fame as a performance in itself, but both Warhol and Murakami went to prestigious art schools and paid their dues as small time artists struggling to do something significant.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:34 PM on September 28, 2011


So you need to go to a prestigious art school?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:47 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first I read of this, it was on a blogger's page (Sept. 7). I notice the NY Times did not give attribution to her.

The gallery's website used to have another painting listed as Dylan's. It was of a cover of Life magazine with text added to the cover -- original cover, and painting of the cover here. A person on the same discussion board emailed the gallery, and the director of media relations replied, "It is in fact a Bob Dylan painting and part of the exhibition." Wonder why they pulled it from the website?
posted by Houstonian at 5:48 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reagan. Reagan. Reagan.

Careful, dude. You'll set some right-wing Beetlejuice thing in motion.
posted by jonmc at 5:52 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"“The Ballad of Hollis Brown" takes its melody from a 1920s ballad, “Pretty Polly.”*

Not to refute the bigger point, but Pretty Polly is a traditional song that I'm almost certain is much older than the 1920s, and therefore would be more available for pillaging.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2011


The gallery's website used to have another painting listed as Dylan's. It was of a cover of Life magazine with text added to the cover -- original cover, and painting of the cover here. A person on the same discussion board emailed the gallery, and the director of media relations replied, "It is in fact a Bob Dylan painting and part of the exhibition."

It's entirely possible Bob Dylan has gone 'round the bend... again. I remember friends who saw him live in the late 80s said he shuffled around like a zombie on stage, and that he was washed up.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:03 PM on September 28, 2011


It's entirely possible Bob Dylan has gone 'round the bend... again. I remember friends who saw him live in the late 80s said he shuffled around like a zombie on stage, and that he was washed up.

I thought his last show was awesome, but YMMV.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:10 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


So you need to go to a prestigious art school?

Not at all. But acceptance can be an indicator of incipient talent, and it is at school where people learn history, theory, and technique. Of course, these things don't have to be learned at an institution, but art school provides mentors. These folks can skew you, pervert your desires, cripple your dreams, but they also hold the knowledge you need. Mentors outside of art school are hard to find; you need to be some kind of irrepressible firecracker to meet those people, or you need to be an intensely gifted auto-didact if you want to do it all on your own.

Hey, if you're just a naive wunderkind joyously creating objects with all of the rest of your trippy friends - disregard all of the above. Do your thing, young'in. But Dylan is not young, naive, or talented (as a painter). Gagosian is supposed to be showing the hottest shit going, not this garbage. This is on the level of things you see at commercial galleries in the downtowns of medium-sized cities.
posted by Roachbeard at 6:10 PM on September 28, 2011


Actually, since the Life magazine cover painting belongs with the collection (I see it wasn't pulled), I wonder if he was painting mostly from Life magazine? Or maybe it is some bigger commentary about media portrayal of Asia. For example:
Boys playing chess: Photo in Life; Dylan's painting
Would be interesting to know if some of the others also were in Life magazine:
Two men talking: Photo; Dylan's painting
Man with horse: Photo; Dylan's painting
Men smoking: Photo; Dylan painting

On the other hand, he kinda does this. We're looking at the Asia series, but the Brazil series had similarity to photos. For example: Houses with clothesline photo; Dylan's painting.

Kinda makes me sad, because it's as if he maintains his privacy (and is mobbed by fans so much) to the point that he can't go out and paint, but instead can only paint from photos others take.

It's entirely possible Bob Dylan has gone 'round the bend... again.

I saw him in concert about a month ago. He was amazing. Totally not having problems.
posted by Houstonian at 6:11 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


You claim to be talking about "talent" . . . It's curious you include Warhol and Murakami on your list.

Leaving aside everything about pop art and its self-conscious progeny (all of which are way beyond the scope of this thread) Warhol and Murakami were/are incredibly talented (and skilled, and practiced) draftsmen and technicians. Dylan, objectively, isn't.
posted by The Bellman at 7:24 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought his last show was awesome,

Actually, that was kind of my point. He sometimes goes away and comes back.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:29 PM on September 28, 2011


Houstonian wrote:
Kinda makes me sad, because it's as if he maintains his privacy (and is mobbed by fans so much) to the point that he can't go out and paint, but instead can only paint from photos others take.
I agree. I am a painter, and one who learned (thankfully) to paint outdoors, in the tradition of the French Impressionists. People who paint exclusively from photos are really missing out. The camera does not see the same way the human eye does. Dylan's paintings from photos have that telltale "dead" look...he hasn't really spent time considering how light falls on objects. I agree with Houstonian, Dylan may believe that he can't take his paint kit out into the world, ...but he REALLY has to paint from life (instead of simply saying he does) if he ever wants to be good at painting. Bob, if you are reading this, you should at least set up some still lifes in your home and paint those. You also need some life models to pose for you. You need education in color theory. Get a teacher. :)
posted by naplesyellow at 8:00 PM on September 28, 2011


So you need to go to a prestigious art school?

Let's go look at Dylan's "peers" on show at Gagosian now:

Avedon: New School (now Parsons)
Cecily Brown: Slade School of Art in London
John Chamberlain: Art Institute of Chicago; Black Mountain
Dan Colen: Rhode Island School of Design
Douglas Gordon: Glasgow School of Art; Slade School of Art
Gorky: National Academy of Design, NYC
Mike Kelley: Cal Arts
Joel Morrison: Claremont
Murakami: Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music
Picasso: Royal Academy of San Fernando, Madrid
Rauschenberg: Kansas City Art Institute; Academie Julian, Paris; Black Mountain
Ed Ruscha: Chouinard
Jenny Saville: Glasgow School of Art
Serra: Yale University School of Art & Architecture; Fulbright Scholar in Rome
Mark Tansey: San Francisco Art Institute; Art Center College, Los Angeles
Robert Therrien: USC
Warhol: Carnegie Institute of Technology, School of Fine Arts (now Carnegie Mellon)
Fanzhi Zeng: Hubei Academy of Fine Arts

Bob Dylan: Dropped out of the University of Minnesota after 1 year.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:04 PM on September 28, 2011


Leave Bob alone.
posted by Sailormom at 8:22 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bob Dylan: Dropped out of the University of Minnesota after 1 year.

Just think of what he could have accomplished had he stayed in school - his artwork may have been collected by rich people.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:37 PM on September 28, 2011


Ah, shit charlie, I'm being too snarky. Thank you for earnestly trying to answer my questions.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on September 28, 2011


大した事じゃない

The data surprised me, I didn't think I'd get 100% big art school grads out of even a small group like that.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:19 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you two aren't fighting (unless those characters I am unable to read spell out a horrible curse or something). I enjoyed both sides of your discussion from the sidelines. I also was a bit surprised by that data, charlie. Though I'm still not 100% swayed. :)

Warning: This comment has an emoticon and is very likely to annoy some people. Oops, I suppose this warning should have gone first.
posted by Glinn at 9:48 PM on September 28, 2011


Dylan, objectively, isn't.

I don't disagree that his art was principally on display due to his renown, but this sort of statement is critically risky, at best. We don't know all of Dylan's artwork, so we can't know his skills. Objectively, looking at most of Picasso's best-known work, he didn't know where to put people's eyes or noses. In fact, he was one of the best draughtsmen the world has ever seen, and his non-naturalistic images were deliberate.

We can discuss the quality of the art that we see, but we cannot know the capabilities of an artist without seeing all of their work. Perhaps it is unlikely that Dylan is a superb realistic illustrator, but we cannot make objective claims without a more comprehensive knowledge of his work. One exhibit gives us no real metric for judging him in absolutes.

Also, by the way, I dropped out of the University of Minnesota.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:33 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: "we cannot make objective claims without a more comprehensive knowledge of his work. One exhibit gives us no real metric for judging him in absolutes."

I have never, ever noticed a spontaneous response to art that said, "Your work appears boring and derivative. I want to see lots more, so that I can evaluate it properly!"
posted by nicebookrack at 10:41 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have never, ever noticed a spontaneous response to art that said, "Your work appears boring and derivative. I want to see lots more, so that I can evaluate it properly!"

Fair enough. But don't claim objective absolutes until you're ready to back them up. "This particular piece is boring and derivative," is a statement of opinion that can be defended. "You are capable of no better" is not, without further research.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:18 PM on September 28, 2011


Dylan definitely painted copies of photos taken by others. If he's calling them his own work, pictures he painted from life, and not admitting that they are faithful reproductions of other people's art, he is definitely a plagiarist, or close enough for me.

But this stuff is just gossip. The real (sad) news is that Joni Mitchell is sick.
posted by pracowity at 2:31 AM on September 29, 2011


We can discuss the quality of the art that we see, but we cannot know the capabilities of an artist without seeing all of their work. Perhaps it is unlikely that Dylan is a superb realistic illustrator, but we cannot make objective claims without a more comprehensive knowledge of his work. One exhibit gives us no real metric for judging him in absolutes.

Yeah, we can. This is presumably his best work, as judged by arguably the most important gallery in the world. We can objectively say the draughtsmanship is clumsy, the colors show a fundamental inability to understand color palettes and mixing and are dull except where they are straight out of the tube, the handling of lighting is almost completely absent, and the composition (when not totally plagiarized) is static and lifeless. And none of those things are done purposely, he really just can't do any better. You pick an artist like Picasso and his abstract works, if his drawing and brushstrokes were clumsy, you could instantly tell it was done that way for a specific reason, you don't even have to see his other works to know he was working purposefully, or that he could be highly skilled at representational art. And then, there's the matter that Picasso's work influenced the entire art world. While Dylan may have had that effect in the music world, no painter (not even an amateur) will ever look at those works and feel compelled to respond to them by revising his artistic philosophy or technique.

Also, by the way, I dropped out of the University of Minnesota.

And I dropped out of a prestigious art school, but I went back 20 years later and finished my BFA. However, neither of us have work on display at Gagosian, where the cheapest works are typically six figures, and other works routinely sell for millions. I can only guess at what you do, but I am probably correct that you, as well as I, have not become ensnared in any plagiarism controversies that became headlines in the New York Times.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:50 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


From an ARTINFO article on the subject:

As a matter of fact, no less than six photographs in the show are seemingly drawn from a single source: Flickr user Okinawa Soba's photostream.

Haha! I *know* Okinawa Soba at Flickr. We've exchanged several comments there on photos that the one or other of us has posted. Small world!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:27 AM on September 29, 2011


Mmmmmm... Soba.
posted by The Bellman at 7:56 AM on September 29, 2011


Come to think of it: Mmmmmm... Flapjax.

Screw this art talk, I'm going to get something to eat.
posted by The Bellman at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2011


This is presumably his best work, as judged by arguably the most important gallery in the world

I make no such presumption. It's a specific collection, and not meant to be definitive. I am willing to discuss the specifics works in this collection, but any assumption you make beyond that is guesswork, and the mark of a poor critic.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2011


I can only guess at what you do,

I am an art critic.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2011


someone’s got it in for me,
they’re planting stories in the press
whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out quick
but when they will I can only guess
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:37 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am an art critic.

Sure but that doesn't make you an art critic.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:43 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, neither of us have work on display at Gagosian, where the cheapest works are typically six figures, and other works routinely sell for millions.

charlie don't surf, I generally agree with your assessment of Dylan-the-painter, but I just don't understand the importance you have assigned to the Gagosian when determining whether or not someone is an "artist" or not. Frankly, if a publicly funded gallery were to display Dylan's works, yeah, that would be crass and unjust towards true "artists"

But if Gagosian is one of the most profitable and wealthy galleries in the world, there is a very unequal power dynamic that exists between that gallery and the artists it exhibits, with the result, it seems that success is measured by how much the art sells for. And if that is a measure of success, then Dylan-the-artist can be called successful.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 AM on September 29, 2011


Dylan stage data point: I saw him when he was touring with Paul Simon, in the late nineties, and he was excellent--I think he had Charlie Sexton in his band, and they did the heaviest version of "Not Fade Away" that I've ever heard.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:48 AM on September 29, 2011


YouTube use to have a clip of Dylan and his "Love and Theft" lineup including Charlie Sexton performing at the Grammies (Jon Stewart was host) that just rocked... The clip has since been removed, unfortunately.

I really wish I could have seen Dylan in the earlier part of the 2000s. I've seen him a couple of times with the Modern Times lineup, and while I think they are okay, the band is not earth-shattering.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:00 AM on September 29, 2011


I should clarify my objection, as it may seem needlessly persnickety. I think Charlie Don't Surf is trying to make a case that Dylan inherently does not belong in the gallery, because he doesn't have the chops to have earned his place there. He may be right.

However, as a critic, I have been burned in the past by making this sort of assumption based on a limited number of pieces. Sometimes artist work in deliberately amateurish or vernacular styles that, on first blush, seem the work of an incompetent. And some of my favorite artists are true primitives, products of self-education. Sometimes art that objectively seems incompetent proves to be just a sampling of a larger body of work, and the incompetence is there for perfectly respectable artistic reasons. And sometimes you're just dealing with an outsider artist whose work has value despite its lack of training.

And so I try to only address myself to the art that I have seen, and make no assumptions about the remainder of the artist's body of work. And, even then, if something seems jarring to me, I ask "what if this was deliberate?" If I come to the conclusion that it wasn't, I ask "Does it have value anyway?"

And that's where things start getting really subjective, boiling down to taste. And so the question of whether Dylan belongs in this gallery or not is one that doesn't especially interest me. It's a done deal, and, in truth, the art world is not a meritocracy, and you don't earn you place in a gallery because of the objective excellence of your work. No crime against humanity has been committed by Dylan's presence in a private art gallery, and the cosmic scales of justice have not tipped out of bounds. Dylan's work is undoubtably high-priced, but, again, that is no indication of the absolute value of art either -- the art market has its vagaries, and Dylan has a cache of celebrity that ups the value of his art. He hasn't really bumped any artist out of the way for this, as the art world is not a totem pole or a litter of puppies, where positioning is o supreme importance and the bottom of the pole or the runt suffers.

The sort of person who would buy a multi-million-dollar Dylan is unlikely to invest the same money in another artist without that cache of fame. And the sort of collector who looks for new talent isn't going to spend his money on a Dylan. Gagosian hasn't closed his doors to better talent by selecting Dylan, because Dylan is the sort of artist he is likely to select, and, if not Dylan, somebody like him. That's that gallery, and it has its artists and its clientele, and the art world is not worsened by this, but instead kept consistent.

Does Dylan rank with the masters? I would agree no. But this is gallery that is less about creating an inventory of masters and instead showcasing the superstars of the art world. Jeff Koons and Jasper Johns have little in common beyond being incredibly recognizable names in the art world. Anybody who develops that sort of name recognition is going to find a place at Gagosian, regardless of Dylan's presence. Admittedly, he's a bit of an outlier, in that he is better known as a musician than a fine artist. But Dylan's fine art has found gallery exhibits since 1994, including such tony galleries as the Kunstsammlungen art museum in Chemnitz. He's currently on display at The National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen. So I don't necessarily disagree that his work isn't up to the standards set by other artists, but that doesn't mean his pretense at Gagosian is indefensible.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:06 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I don't necessarily disagree that his work isn't up to the standards set by other artists, but that doesn't mean his pretense at Gagosian is indefensible.

Well said. But the problem with defending Dylan at Gagosian is that it reduces art to a pretentious and cynical marketing of commodities that are stripped of any connection to actual quality. Sure, there is a component of brand marketing in the world of Blue Chip art, but this Dylan exhibit is reductio ad absurdum. And this commoditization has been expressed more eloquently, recently on MeFi I described Chris Burden's "Tower of Power," a pyramid of stacked gold bars worth $1 million.

I am reminded of Warhol's remark, something or other about how brands are equanimous, since anyone can have the same experience of drinking CocaCola that Marilyn Monroe has when she drinks a Coke. But this Dylan thing is an inversion of that. It means that if you merely put yourself in a context of superstar branding, you're Marilyn Monroe every time someone drinks a Coke.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:26 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


it reduces art to a pretentious and cynical marketing of commodities that are stripped of any connection to actual quality

Only at that gallery.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gagosian is the milking stool upon which sits the art pontifex who leers suggestively at the Prada-enrobed dudes peering over the barn door as he snaps on rubber gloves with a flourish, grasps firmly the teats of fame and pulls slowly, suggestively, seductively, squeezing whilst moaning and rolling his eyes, gradually filling an endless series of diamond encrusted leaden goblets with a rancid mixture of pretension, contempt and linseed; as each is filled it is hurled violently over the door to splatter on a newsprint easel from which pages are torn and fought over as meat by wolverines.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:21 PM on September 29, 2011


If she drank Coke, then I think Coke must have tasted better to Marilyn Monroe, cause I think that shit tastes nasty.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:01 PM on September 29, 2011


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