Jim Dine. Car Crash. 
November 1960
Form: "In 1960 at Reuben Gallery, Dine created Car Crash, which lasted about 15 minutes; he had experienced a crash himself the year before. In an enclosed space in which found objects, all painted white, were arrayed, Dine, dressed in silver with silver face paint and red lipstick, kept drawing anthropomorphic cars on a blackboard. He seemed to want to speak, to explain, but only grunted. He drew obsessively, breaking the chalk, in an effort to communicate." (www.findarticles.com)

Iconography: Spectators entered an Environment completely covered in white - white paint, white cloth, white paper - and took seats in a U-shaped row of chairs that they found around them.  Looking up, they saw what appeared to be an 8 foot tall girl clothed in white (it was actually a regular girl sitting on a ladder, hidden under her white garments).  They watched as a series of happenings occurred involving a man in silver with a hat of "headlights" that were pointed to and for over the audience, and two other performers, a woman, dressed as a man in a white suit and a man, dressed as a woman in a white evening dress.  The man and woman carried flashlights under their arms and whenever they lit upon the man in silver he grunted as if in pain, and moved, as if seeking to hide from them.   Throughout the performance, various sounds of car motors, honking and screeching tires could be heard, accompanied at times by the girl on the white ladder reciting a series of words regarding cars, with a random yet somewhat, sexual content.

Context: "A native Cincinnatian born in June 1935, Dine was raised by his maternal  grandparents, who took him in after his mother died when he was 12 and his remarried father did not want to provide a home. While still at Walnut Hills High School, Dine took night classes at Cincinnati Art Academy, then spent one year at University of Cincinnati before transferring to Ohio University, where he graduated in 1957. Two years later, he moved to New York City. After briefly teaching art, he began to make his reputation in the Happenings movement, a form of usually bizarre performance art - ''painter's theater,'' in his words - that sought to break down barriers between life and art." (www.cincypost.com)


Self Portrait. 1964 mixed media

Robe 1976
Form: A representation of the artists bathrobe, created in mixed media.

Iconography: "Throughout his career Jim Dine incorporated common objects into his work that were meaningful in his own life--such as tools, bathrobes, and hearts. Through repetition over time these objects take on meaning for the viewer as well as the artist." (www.nga.gov) Jim Dine had a great love for hs everyday objects, the things in which he lived and worked. By creating a work that is based on his own favorite bathrobe, he is creating a very intimate self portrait of himself. In essence, who he is as a person and as an artist. On guggenheim.org, the work is interpreted thusly, "Dine also began to address his identity and physicality through images of thickly painted palettes (or actual palettes affixed to canvases) and oversize color charts, which suggest the basic artifacts of his profession and the presence of the artist. Such references to the self became more direct in 1964 in a series of assemblages featuring images of men's suits and in another series based on an illustration of a bathrobe that Dine saw in a newspaper advertisement. A typical example is Palette (Self-Portrait No. 1) (1964), in which the robe is sharply delineated and decorated with physical objects (a chain, a watch) and seems to anticipate inhabitation by the artist's body. Dine went further in exploring his ideas about objects in a series of painted, three-dimensional sculptures of tools, furniture, and boots that he began making during a two-year hiatus from painting, starting in 1966. The cool objectivity of the Pop art movement, with which such pedestrian imagery was irrevocably linked, contrasted with the intimate articulations of Dine's work and provoked art historian Alan Solomon's 1967 essay about Dine, "Hot Artist in a Cool Time." 

Context: "Dine incorporated images of everyday objects in his art, but he diverged from the coldness and impersonal nature of pop art by making works that fused personal passions and everyday experiences. His repeated use of familiar and personally significant objects, such as a robe, hands, tools, and hearts, is a signature of his art. In his early work, Dine created mostly assemblages in which he attached actual objects to his painted canvases." (www.e-fineart.com)

Jim Dine. Study for a Color Chart. 1963
Form: Paint on canvas, set up to resemble a traditional color chart.

Iconography: Jim Dine did series that were based on his own life as an artist and the things that were important to him. He did a series of these studies of color charts in preparation for a major painting entitled 'red devil color chart'. The drips and somewhat haphazard application of the paint into the squares may be a statement on how his art 'drips' into his everyday life, how it colors everything he does. An excerpt from the Guggenheim museum states.... "and oversize color charts, which suggest the basic artifacts of his profession and the presence of the artist." 

Context: This painting was done in 1963, when Jim Dine was helping to shape the Pop Art movement and was doing repetitive series of works such as color charts, palletes, shoes, clothing, etc. His work at this point was dealing directly with the things that are used in everyday life.

Jim Dine. Tools and Canvas. c1960
Form: Tools attached to a painted canvas.

Iconography:  According to NY arts magazine, in an article published in March 1999, "Dine belonged to the group of pioneers who experimented with "happenings" and Conceptual Art in the late 1950's. Dine manipulated everyday tools with a child's aggressive handling of toys. He spilled color over his tools and spray-painted objects from his grandfather's hardware store. The most impressive work of this period is Five Feet of Colorful Tools-a yellowish canvas dominated by an assemblage of polychrome hanging tools set against their bright gun-sprayed shadows. The Jim Dine exhibition exceeds all expectations: ambiguous, annoying, assaulting, exacerbating and embarrassingly banal." 

Context: This piece is following Jim Dines early love affair with the everyday object. Taking it and manipulating it so that it becomes a work of art.


Chinese Scissors 1974
Form: Etching with watercolor additions

Iconography: Jim Dine was adept at printmaking as well as painting and collage. This piece goes along with the earlier work he did, 'Tools and Canvas'. He is taking the everyday objects which he uses, whether in daily life or for his art, and rendering them with artistic grace into an etching. He was so entranced with these seemingly mundane objects that he eventually decided they were all his "self portraits."

Context: "As an avid printmaker, Dine's virtuosity, penchant for innovation, and ability to tap into the vagaries of the human psyche has resulted in countless works of indisputable power and beauty. During the last fifteen years, Dine's imagery has evolved in extraordinary ways. New iconic elements - the owl, raven, ape, cat, and Pinocchio - supplement his signature repertory of hearts, hands, skulls, tools, and robes. He continually turns to familiar images such as the Venus de Milo, trees, and flowers to evoke a variety of emotional responses. Each one of these old and new motifs resonates with the artist's life experiences, to such a degree that he has openly declared them self-portraits. Now into the twenty first century, Dine continues to dazzle with iconic and technical innovations that build on and enhance his earlier efforts." (taken from  www.absolutearts.com)

Blue Clamp 1981
Form: Acrylic on canvas, with the addition of a blue C clamp.

Iconography: Once again, he is using easily recognizable and familiar icons, in this case, a heart. Most of Jim Dines work is happy, meant to show an affinity for something or some ideal. This work, however, has a  bit of an ominous feel to it, with the addition of the clamp in the center of the heart. It would seem to suggest something squeezing or 'clamping' the heart, perhaps a type of physical or emotional pain. The heart is also painted a dark, scarlet red and is covered with other layers of browns, blues and blacks, the colors most generally associated with depression. Without an outside frame of reference the viewer is left to discern for themselves what the underlying message may be. There is nothing else on the canvas to suggest what the source of pain may be, or indeed, if the clamp is indicative of pain at all.

Context: Entering the 1980's, a period in American life best known for its' excess, greed, and materialism, Dines work became more of a commentary on what he observed in the world, and began to have a much more political slant to it. It would lead some to infer that the change in societal values towards the material is what causes ones' heart to hurt. Or it could be as simple as the passing of time makes the artist realize his own mortality.


Atheism 1986
Form: Hand colored lithograph.

Iconography: Here Jim Dine is once again using his robe motif, which he has been fond of throughout his career. Since we know that he considered these images to be self portraits, we may safely assume that this is a comment on self. The title would suggest that he is calling himself an atheist, but as the viewer examines the print closer, they may notice that the tree sprouting from the top of the robe is being threatened by a  large and sharp-looking saw. It may be suggestive that if one is to become an atheist, they are cutting their own self down, destroying a life. It ma even be as simple as a proclamation for his love of nature, to cut down a tree would show a disrespect for God, the destruction of a living thing makes one akin to an atheist. In either interpretation, it would be difficult to make a case for the artist himself as an atheist, since he professed a love for the simple things in life and appreciated the inherent beauty of nature. 

Context: Again, the symbols of the artists' own life are used and re-used in different scenarios in order to create a new meaning. In this case, late in the 1980s, he is becoming more blatant in his goal, more about his beliefs and less about the objects themselves.


Nancy 1980's
Form: Monotype print.

Iconography: Jim Dine wife, Nancy Dine, is figured prominently in his work throughout his career. The early hearts he created, both in sculpture and in prints and painting, are dedicated to her, as well as numerous figure studies and installation pieces. This piece of art is a divergence from his usual symbols, but can nonetheless be said to be extremely representative of his life. She can be said to be as much of a self portrait for her husband as the robes and tools, since her influence on his life was so great, and his love for her was so strong. It is important to note that he created this print of her as she looked. Historically, an artist will tend to flatter a female subject by fudging the facial features, smoothing the skin, in essence making her look beautiful and unrealistic. By making a true representation of his wife, he is saying that he loves her unconditionally for who she is in his life, she is no an image to be toyed with.

Context: Jim Dines wife was always involved with his career, supporting it and playing a vital role in its' management. It is no wonder that he chooses to honor her by including her in the art itself, because she was the reason much of it was done in the first place.