I refuse to make a single "gates" or "Flashdance" pun in this title
November 14, 2013 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Bob Dylan is a welder and he makes big iron gates out of scrap metal. You can see for yourself at Castle Gallery in London for the next couple of months. Says Bob: "Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference."
posted by maudlin (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
The FireWeldin' Bob Dylan?
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love it: the great enigmatic genius of American music adopts as a hobby one of those folk-art traditions largely carried out by rural grandpas, and suddenly it becomes gallery material. Maybe next he'll reveal he's been doing chainsaw sculpture or collecting old tools.
posted by RogerB at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many people don't know this, but he made the entrance for the estate of one of the Go-Go's; many fans camp outside her place hoping to hear a hint of guitar wafting out on the evening breeze, but sadly no sound ever comes from the gates of Wiedlin.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:17 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow."

Maybe it's because I'm an uncultured slob but this is the sort of quote that makes me want to throw things.
posted by bondcliff at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


His studio is out on Highway 61.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:19 AM on November 14, 2013


I was sure this was going to be about someone else who happened to be named Bob Dylan. Nope, there he is. Hi, Bob.
posted by dismas at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


bondcliff, I like the first part of the statement -- Team Negative Space! -- but yeah, the rest is just blargle.
posted by maudlin at 11:22 AM on November 14, 2013


They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow."

TRANSLATED: they keep the assholes out but not the wind, because that's where the answer is.
posted by philip-random at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


also, I can see the headlines. DYLAN GOES METAL
posted by philip-random at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


It kind of speaks to that whole question of, like, is Bob Dylan a folk singer if he plays an electric guitar? The classic picture of the folk singer would have taken up carpentry, I think. Instead, it's something that reflects a much more industrial sort of picture of Americana--something that at this point is almost as out-of-date as the woodworking, but it doesn't have the same rustic innocence to it.
posted by Sequence at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]




Gate won't close, railing's froze.
posted by box at 11:41 AM on November 14, 2013


Huh--per the search on bobdylan.com, there are 23 Dylan songs with the word 'gate' in them.
posted by box at 11:45 AM on November 14, 2013


big brass gate?
posted by de at 11:47 AM on November 14, 2013


seems logical.
posted by srboisvert at 11:49 AM on November 14, 2013


It's not blargle at all -- in fact it demonstrates that Zimmy has an understanding of architecture and the physical world with as much depth as he does for music or the social and psychological territory in which he places his songs. Yeah, I know they don't teach architecture in most schools, so most of us are uneducated slobs on this topic. But I would assume anyone with a basic vocabulary in the visual arts would agree.

Huh--per the search on bobdylan.com, there are 23 Dylan songs with the word 'gate' in them.

Words and phrases that rhyme with gate: (333 results)
posted by dhartung at 11:51 AM on November 14, 2013


I don't really see what is wank-tastic or bullshitty about that quote at all. It's certainly a lot more understandable and informative than like 99% of all artist statements ever. There isn't even a reference to Derrida in it!

Also, I've always theorized that Dylan's whole overarching thing through his whole career has been all about identity and self-perception vs. being observed. So the gates thing is sort of part and parcel of all that.
posted by Sara C. at 11:52 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, re it being gallery worthy, this reminds me a little bit of Patti Smith's photography that has been making the rounds lately. It's... pretty good? Probably good enough to get a solo show at a smallish gallery in a city without a huge art scene? But they go on view at museums, because her name is a pretty big draw.

And, I dunno, if it gets people to go to museums, sure, I guess?

I'd be more bothered if this stuff was getting huge shows at major museums, taking away the emphasis on real artists.
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Same as Dismas; was assuming it was some sculptor who shared the name. The gates look pretty interesting from the bits you can see; pity they didn't take more pictures featuring them as opposed to arty shots and ones of Dylan.
posted by tavella at 12:04 PM on November 14, 2013


I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country — where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it in one form or another.
This reminds me a lot of his song North Country Blues, which I don't think I entirely realized was about something close to his own lived experience.

This is sort of what I mean about Dylan, identity, etc. Like, is this song told from the perspective of an old woman in a mining ghost town just an old folk song? Is it a poem? A protest? Does it say something about Dylan himself, or is it held away from him, just somebody else's story he's telling for the political street cred?

The idea of Bob Dylan just being an old dude with a hobby that reminds him of where he came from is really endearing to me.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


taking away the emphasis on real artists

Interesting. Who gets to decide who 'real artists' are?
posted by mintcake! at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I don't really see what is wank-tastic or bullshitty about that quote at all. It's certainly a lot more understandable and informative than like 99% of all artist statements ever. There isn't even a reference to Derrida in it!

If anything I'm surprised they ran with it. It basically says, "I am working from the basic theories taught to students in Visual Composition 101."

> I'd be more bothered if this stuff was getting huge shows at major museums, taking away the emphasis on real artists.

What threshold needs be crossed? He's been shown in museums. His paintings have gallery representation.

There's no question in my mind that his fame aided his admission into the fine arts world, but he takes it seriously, works hard at it and puts in his hours. He's not a dabbler coasting on the fame. Whatever I think of what he makes (like the gates, not the paintings and drawings all that much) doesn't enter into it.
posted by ardgedee at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2013


taking away the emphasis on real artists

last time I looked, the culture had already decided that Mr. Dylan was a real artist, albeit as a songwriter/musician. Is it too much of a stretch to imagine that his metal work might also be part of his statement?
posted by philip-random at 12:33 PM on November 14, 2013


Well, there was this old idea that art should stand completely on its own, and the context that the creator lived in is irrelevant. That an American art critic, a peasant from China, and a Martian could all look at the same painting and agree on its merits. We abandoned that principle fifty or sixty years ago, because it's kind of ridiculous.
posted by miyabo at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2013


Interesting. Who gets to decide who 'real artists' are?

I vote we provide this and other utterly predictable responses with a number—like in the joke about the joke-tellers—so we can just write something like "seven" and be done with it.
posted by kenko at 12:48 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mr. Dylan just has a restless mind, in the best meaning of the term. Life is just better with him around, somehow.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: utterly predictable responses

That one's #8.
posted by mintcake! at 12:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who gets to decide who 'real artists' are?

Sorry, that was shorthand for "professional artists who concentrate on visual art as their main career and don't have name recognition from another field".

I did not in any way intend to open up some weird derail about Who Are Real Artists.

I'm pretty sure people like Bob Dylan and Patti Smith are 100% OK with the idea that their visual art works are a side project.

Literally not one single person actually believes that Bob Dylan should be equally if not better known for his found iron pastiche gates, as nice as they are.
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Additionally, literally not one single person thinks that most of the art at a museum like the Tate or the Met ought to be by rock stars.
posted by Sara C. at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2013


^ I actually think that would be cool.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:10 PM on November 14, 2013


Yeah for like a weekend, maybe? But no, not really.
posted by Sara C. at 1:29 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The metalwork stands well with his traditional craft. He collects and reassembles thoughts, words, phrases & discarded metal hardware. He's a recycler.
posted by peacay at 1:34 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What would be really interesting would be to hear the response from the existing found-object gate-welding community (which must exist somewhere, right?). Will they embrace Dylan as a mascot, and run a big cover story on him in Found Object Gate Welder magazine? Or will the community be bitterly divided about whether to regard him as one of their own or an arriviste of dubious talent using his fame to leapfrog his betters, none of whom (I'm betting) have been or ever will be exhibited in London galleries? And how would these particular gates be regarded by someone with deep expertise in found-object gate welding? I would like to hear what their criteria for gate appreciation might be, and whether they'd regard this show as cooptation or not, and how they experience the world's bemused reaction to this show. It must be really weird to see one's personal patch of folk-art territory suddenly removed from the context of roadside folksy kitsch and displaced into the posh modernist capital-A Art gallery world purely by the mechanics of fame, knowing that no other found-object gate welder would ever be able to follow the same path.
posted by RogerB at 1:47 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?


Looks like he's a pretty good & creative welder, too. I like those things he's making, there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


He might make some bat gates for caves. Most of them are relentlessly ugly.
Exception.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:54 PM on November 14, 2013


> It must be really weird to see one's personal patch of folk-art territory suddenly removed from the context of roadside folksy kitsch and displaced into the posh modernist capital-A Art gallery world purely by the mechanics of fame, knowing that no other found-object gate welder would ever be able to follow the same path.

See also: Picasso and Braques' appropriation of African tribal artifacts.
posted by ardgedee at 1:54 PM on November 14, 2013


And how would these particular gates be regarded by someone with deep expertise in found-object gate welding?

I don't have a ton of expertise on the subject, but to me they look a lot like similar things I've seen before. I'm not willing to say that Dylan is bad at making gates, but I don't really see anything special about them. There's a very East Village Community Garden feel to them. Which, I don't know, maybe that's high praise in the found object welding community.

Then again, I'm no found object iron gate expert.

I'll also say that, within the larger art world, those gates would stand absolutely no chance of a major gallery show, in like a million billion years. Unless they were done by Damien Hirst or something, of course. Then again, this same gallery recently had a Chihuly show, which, vomit. We're not exactly talking about Gagosian here.
posted by Sara C. at 2:02 PM on November 14, 2013


I'll also say that I feel more OK with the gates being by Bob Dylan as opposed to Damien Hirst. I would want to murder Hirst (more than I already do) if he did these, whereas Dylan doing them just inspires warm fuzzy grandpa feelings.
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on November 14, 2013


I always thought it was kind of cool how Stephen King and J. K. Rowling published books under pseudonyms to try to get a sense of how they would be received modulo the King and Rowling branding and merchandising machinery.

This is basically the opposite of that.
posted by enn at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


First you find out he had a secret family life all those years, then he gets a huge resurgence in his career, then he blows your mind with that radio show, and now he has this secret life as a welder. The man is an onion, layers and layers under there forever and ever, amen.

I know Elizabeth Wurtzel is a polarizing figure here and many hate her, but fwiw, here is her recent article on Dylan's newest release.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:01 PM on November 14, 2013


Haha getting Elizabeth Wurtzel to review that particular Dylan thing is brilliant.
posted by Sara C. at 3:09 PM on November 14, 2013


There has to be a Bob Gates joke in here somewhere. Something "masters of war" something something.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:11 PM on November 14, 2013


Somehow welding as an art form seems so much more suited to Dylan than painting or other arts. Easier for me to imagine him with a torch than a brush.


What does it mean if you put up a gate, but you have no fence?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:28 PM on November 14, 2013


It means you're prepared to leave the path most trodden to get beyond an obstacle.
posted by de at 4:41 AM on November 15, 2013


Haha getting Elizabeth Wurtzel to review that particular Dylan thing is brilliant.

I've been noodling over this on and off for about 10 hours and I'm still not sure what you mean, though I don't want to start a derail about Wurtzel. But I need to know! Why is it brilliant to have Wurtzel review a collection of all 41 of Dylan's albums released as a set?
posted by onlyconnect at 7:03 AM on November 15, 2013


Maybe he could weld me a small gate to my vegetable patch, so I could name it The Gates of Eatin'.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2013


Wait, sorry, I thought it was a review of the latest Dylan album, which is made of stuff that didn't make the cut for Self Portrait.

Self Portrait is a pretty controversial Dylan album, and is probably the album that is most associated with the enigma of the Dylan "image" and identity questions. Because it's called Self Portrait and is mostly covers and traditional folk standards -- nothing about it is revealing of Dylan the individual in any way.

It struck me as a brilliant little in-joke to get Elizabeth Wurtzel, famous navel gazer, to review a look back at one of the most famously not-navel-gazing albums of all time.

But if it's a boxed set? Meh. Joke ruined. Sorry I didn't read more closely before I made that connection.
posted by Sara C. at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


taking away the emphasis on real artists.

I find it interesting that at one time "real artists" were expected to be proficient in more than one medium, and noone looked down their nose at, say Michelangelo writing poetry as well as that whole painting and sculpting thing as poaching in someone else's "rightful" professional territory.

Sorry, that was shorthand for "professional artists who concentrate on visual art as their main career and don't have name recognition from another field".

So the only "real artists" are those for whom it's their "main career". That will be interesting news to any number of writers I know for whom being successfully published and critically acclaimed has not translated to "pays the bills by writing". So they aren't "real artists". And only visual artists are allowed to be legitimately considered a "real artist" in visual arts. That's...interesting, I suppose, in a condescending and elitist sorta way. For a laugh I'll mention this to my friend Matt, whose family owns an "Outsider Art" collection valued at a couple of hundred million dollars. It's really valueless, because those folks aren't real artists either.

I suppose in a world where "artist" is for many just another job that requires "success", where there are a dozen Phoenix Academy style art school diploma mills promising unrealistic futures, and there are a plethora of other modestly talented people in a knife fight to crowdfund yet another variation on a theme probably done better by someone else, the idea of a talented and successful person from the outside coming in and not having to "suffer" like the rest stirs up righteous indignation.

But that's distinct from what constitutes a "real artist".

Even more absurd in this case is the context. By your own assessment, "found-object gate welding" isn't something "real artists" give two shits about, so it's not like he's denying some poor bastard toiling away in the hinterlands his one chance to bring his work to the cognoscenti for his shot at fame and fortune. So this is just shitting on someone on principle.

I did not in any way intend to open up some weird derail about Who Are Real Artists.

No...you bafflingly seem to think we'd all be nodding our heads in sage agreement with your definition. It's a very telling view into a particular subculture, if nothing else.
posted by kjs3 at 11:17 AM on November 16, 2013


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