This is a truly remarkable group of images. But if you forget about the Alzheimer’s, the work looks a lot like Jim Dine’s self-portraits:
Maybe it would help Dine’s perception in the art world if he had Alzheimer’s. Dine is reviled almost as much at Botero. I’ll never forget reading Richard Polsky’s Artnet column recommending collectors sell Dine:
The truly great artists don’t rest on their laurels. They take risks and continue to explore new possibilities. Imagine what would have happened if the great artist Philip Guston had played it safe by sticking with his Abstract Expressionist style. Instead, he chanced everything by painting his now-famous quirky representational subject matter.
For whatever reason, Dine has never felt compelled to endure the painful soul-searching that Guston must have faced. Almost 40 years after painting his first heart and robe, he continues to crank out variations of the same images. This is not to be confused with the example of Gorgio Morandi and his wonderful still lifes. In Morandi’s case, his humble bottles and objects were painted over and over, with an ever greater sense of meaning and spirituality. Dine’s paintings lack that sort of depth. They are what they are — attractive depictions of a limited personal vocabulary.
I don’t know if it is fair to say he has played it safe. Certainly he has experimented. For example, Dine has spent a significant amount of energy producing photographs:
Singing Daily, 1998
But experimentation is not the same as struggle. The art world consensus is that Dine, like Botero, hasn’t struggled enough. Assuming Dine doesn’t aquire Alzheimer’s or commit suicide, what should he to do?
This is similar to the question raised in an earlier post about William Wegman. Whether an artist is successful for dogs or bathrobes, how do you sustain a career? Another recent post discussed the work of Bas Jan Ader. Ader’s entire oeuvre is about twelve minutes long. Much of the Ader legend is built on his disappearance while making In search of the miraculous. Might Wegman be just as highly regarded as Ader if one of the Weimaraners had snapped at his owner’s jugular? In other words, can an artist sustain critical credibility over the long-haul without biographical myth-making?