Tag Archives: Bob Dylan Face Value

Bob Dylan art: Face Value portrait “contemptible” – Brian Sewell, top English critic

ROCK ART EDITIONS published an earlier version of this post in October 2014. It’s republished here to commemorate Brian Sewell, art critic of the London Evening Standard. He’s the best-known English critic, particularly among those who share his rejection of much contemporary art. Brian Sewell died last weekend, aged 84.

Bob Dylan art gets the thumbs down: his Skip Sharpe portrait is “Contemptible.  Just rubbish”.  It should not have been exhibited by the National Portrait Gallery, according to top critic Brian Sewell, in his Pop Goes The Easel, a scathing survey of rock musicians who paint.

Q magazine published Sewell’s damning piece in November 2013, to coincide with the Bob Dylan Face Value show at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value

Skip Sharpe by Bob Dylan, Face Value exhibition 2013. © Bob Dylan 2013

Bob Dylan art “just rubbish”, Macca paintings “childish rubbish”

The critic goes on to lambast other rock-musicians-turned-painters. He dismisses artwork by Beatles bassist Paul McCartney as “childish rubbish”. Edwyn Collins’ artwork shows promise… when judged as the work of a 14-year old! Daniel Johnston’s Captain America is “… just awful.  Utter, utter rubbish”.

Funny, that.  I enjoyed the Bob Dylan art in the Face Value exhibition, a small gallery of distinctive portraits, held in 2013. The portraits are representative Bob Dylan art – they successfully capture Dylan’s penetrating, sceptical, questioning worldview. My only criticism was that the show didn’t have enough pictures.

Bob Dylan art: judge for yourself – catalogue still available

You can judge for yourself the Bob Dylan art dismissed by Sewell. Bob Dylan Face Value, a handsome, collectable catalogue, published by the National Portrait Gallery, London, is still widely available.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value catalogue

Bob Dylan Face Value catalogue © National Portrait Gallery 2013

I was also impressed by Paul McCartney: Paintings, the 1999 and 2000 catalogues of the Beatle’s artwork: I’m not keen on Macca’s music, but I do like his painting.

Brian Sewell is a celebrated London-based art critic known for his lively journalism and entertaining TV appearances. He tends not to, er, sit on the fence.

The dismissive tone in his Q article was echoed in the recent assessment of some rocker-painters by Guardian critic Jonathan Jones, covered here last week. (Bob Dylan got off lightly.)

I’m collecting critical commentaries – positive and negative – on Bob Dylan art and work by other rock musicians who paint, to discuss on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS.  If you come across any critiques, please Leave a reply, at the top of this article.  Thanks, in advance.

 

Copyright: images © Bob Dylan and © National Portrait Gallery, London, as indicated in captions.  Brian Sewell quotations © Q magazine.  Text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS 2015.  Unauthorised reproduction prohibited. 

Bob Dylan art: US exhibition of Face Value portraits – life, personality, individuality

Bob Dylan art - Face Value, London

Face Value London exhibition poster © National Portrait Gallery London 2013

Bob Dylan art, exhibited extensively in Europe since 2007, is now receiving increasing exposure in the USA.

The latest US exhibition is Bob Dylan: Face Value, showing at the Giffuni Gallery of The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio until 12 July.

Face Value is a small exhibition of Bob Dylan art, comprising 12 pastel on paper portraits. It was first shown at the National Portrait Gallery, London from August 2013 to January 2014.

Bob Dylan art

Skip Sharpe portrait from Bob Dylan: Face Value © Bob Dylan/NPG London 2013

The London Face Value show probably attracted the biggest audience so far for an exhibition of Bob Dylan art. The National Portrait Gallery, located in the very heart of tourist London is one of the most accessible galleries in the world.  Free entry, a lengthy run and a fine catalogue helped ensure heavy footfall for this release of Bob Dylan art.

Bob Dylan art: pastel portraits

Bob Dylan art: Face Value, 2013 exhibition, National Portrait Gallery, London. photo © Gerald Smith 2013

Face Value: mixed reviews for Bob Dylan art

It had mixed reviews, though.  Waspish critic Brian Sewell (Q magazine, November 2103), dismissed the show: “Contemptible.  Just rubbish.  It is beyond my understanding that the National Portrait Gallery should exhibit such things.”

I saw it differently.  Popping in several times, I enjoyed each viewing. The room of Bob Dylan portraits sat comfortably alongside priceless works by canonical artists like Rubens and Van Dyck, Warhol and Hockney.  I warmed to the quality of the Bob Dylan art on display, particularly Dylan’s technique as a portraitist: he endows his subjects with life, personality, individuality.

If you’re a fan of Bob Dylan art and find yourself anywhere near Youngstown, Ohio this summer, I recommend that you call in to The Butler Institute of American Art to investigate this fine collection of portraits.

Bob Dylan art: Face Value portrait, Skip Sharpe

Bob Dylan art: Face Value catalogue © National Portrait Gallery 2013

If you can’t make the show, consider buying the fine catalogue.  It’s widely available, notably from the National Portrait Gallery in London.

(At the time of writing, http://www.butlerart.com/ was not linking; the Butler has a Facebook page.)

Bob Dylan art: the first 10 series – introduction

Bob Dylan art, released in ten series since 2007, is now a substantial body of work. Bob Dylan has recently been as busy producing visual art as he was recording albums in his mid-1960s heyday.

As his music output has diminished, Dylan has developed his visual art with trademark vigour – exactly what you’d expect from a creative artist with the energy levels and work ethic needed to undertake the Never Ending Tour.

Bob Dylan’s art is ambitious.  It covers a variety of subject matter.  And Dylan the artist is willing to tackle a wide range of different media.

Bob Dylan art is officially endorsed, with exhibitions of different work staged in four prestigious European public museums, in Germany, Denmark, Italy and England. Works for sale have been shown by two major commercial galleries, Gagosian in New York and Halcyon in London, as well as many smaller venues.  The art world has embraced Bob Dylan.

The best-known Bob Dylan art is The Drawn Blank Series, which has seen several releases since 2007.   Its signed, limited edition prints now adorn the walls of many thousands of collectors and investors.

New Bob Dylan art has come thick and fast since 2010, with the release of nine other series: Bob Dylan On Canvas, The Brazil Series, The Asia Series, Revisionist Art – Thirty Works, The Revisionist Art Series, Mood Swings (including Iron Works and Gangster Doors), The New Orleans Series and Face Value.

Here’s an introduction to this impressive array of Bob Dylan art.

Bob Dylan Art #1: The Drawn Blank Series

The Drawn Blank Series 2010 release, Man On A Bridge

Man On A Bridge © Bob Dylan and Washington Green 2010

Bob Dylan art was launched with The Drawn Blank Series exhibition at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Germany, in 2007.  It was a collection of watercolours developed from the pencil sketches of Drawn Blank, his 1994 book.

Bob Dylan went on to create (and sign) limited edition prints of The Drawn Blank Series for publisher Washington Green, in a series of releases between 2008 and 2014.  The graphics went on sale through Halcyon Gallery, London and the Castle Galleries chain, plus some independent UK art retailers and several US galleries.

ROCK ART EDITIONS recently reviewed the The Drawn Blank Series 2008-2014 retrospective exhibition and the most recent, 2014 releases.  The Drawn Blank Series is easily the best-known and most widely distributed series of Bob Dylan art.

Bob Dylan Art #2: Bob Dylan On Canvas

Bob Dylan art The Drawn Blank Series acrylic on canvas 2010

Two Sisters © Bob Dylan 2010, acrylic on canvas

Halcyon Gallery has also exhibited original canvases on several occasions, notably in Bob Dylan On Canvas in February 2010. It contained 12 works, acrylics on canvas, including Two Sisters (pictured, left), two different versions of Train Tracks and one of Woman in Red Lion Pub, popular images from the limited edition prints, and some of my favourites from that series.

In addition, in 2013, Halcyon Gallery introduced a hybrid mini-series, Side Tracks, a collection of 325 prints of Train Tracks hand-embellished individually by the artist to create another set of unique artworks.  (Side Tracks could be counted as another – an eleventh – series of Bob Dylan art.)

Bob Dylan Art #3: The Brazil Series

Bob Dylan painting, Vineyard, Brazil Series,

Vineyard, The Brazil Series, © Bob Dylan 2010

For his follow-up to The Drawn Blank Series, Bob Dylan, never one to stand still, produced a very different looking collection, The Brazil Series.

The Brazil pictures are bolder, more sombre, more socially engaged, more concerned with groups of people.

Clearly conceived as a collection, The Brazil Series of paintings (acrylics on canvas) and drawings (pencil on paper) were exhibited at Museum for Kunst, Kopenhagen, National Gallery of Denmark, September 2010-February 2011.  The catalogue has nearly 50 images – 80% were displayed in the Copenhagen exhibition.

 

Bob Dylan Art #4: The Asia Series

Monk by Bob Dylan, The Asia Series, Gagosian

Monk, The Asia Series, © Bob Dylan 2011

The Asia Series of 18 acrylic and oil paintings on canvas were shown at Gagosian Gallery, New York in September/October 2011.  The pictures, like The Brazil Series clearly conceived as a collection, reveal Bob Dylan exploring another, even more exotic, culture.  My favourite images from The Asia Series include Monk (pictured) and The Bridge.

The Asia Series, like Chronicles, his outstanding book (“non-autobiography”), drew accusations of plagiarism. I’m an agnostic on such matters: I like the work, but haven’t devoted enough time to feel comfortable pontificating on its derivation.  Readers with the time and inclination to research the issue will find plenty of discussion online.

Bob Dylan Art #5: Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan

Revisionist Art: Thirty Works by Bob Dylan catalogue 2012

Bob Dylan Revisionist Art © Bob Dylan and Gagosian Gallery 2012

Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan was exhibited at the prestigious Gagosian Gallery, New York, November 2012-January 2013. It consists of 30 pieces, jokey reworkings of old American magazine covers, many featuring female body parts, prominently.

The artworks of Revisionist Art, silkscreen on canvas, are a bridge too far for me. Ignorant of most of the cultural references, I’d need to educate myself in twentieth century American popular culture to get the in-jokes.

Bob Dylan Art #6: The Revisionist Art Series

Bob Dylan art - The Revisionist Art Series, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

Exhibit in The Revisionist Art Series © Bob Dylan 2013

Adjoining the Mood Swings show at Halcyon Gallery, London in 2013 (see below), several additional silkscreen prints, including the spoof cover of Life magazine, pictured here, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Woody Allen, were presented as the Revisionist Art Series.

As with the Gagosian Revisionist collection, above: this is not really my bag.  Normally averse to the “my five years old daughter could do that” school of art criticism, I’m sorely tempted, in this case, to join that tedious conservative tendency.  I just don’t get it… though I’m open to persuasion.

Bob Dylan Art #7: The New Orleans Series

Bob Dylan art: New Orleans Series, Milan exhibition

Bob Dylan New Orleans Series exhibition, Milan © Bob Dylan and Palazzo Reale 2013

The New Orleans Series of paintings, exhibited at Palazzo Reale, Milan in February/March 2013 looks like an interesting small collection of oils on canvas, mainly figurative.

But visiting Milan in early 2013 was a trip too far for me.  I’d jump at the chance to see it in London, and would even find an excuse to see it in Paris or Berlin.

There is no printed catalogue, as far as I’m aware, so The New Orleans Series remains the least-known collection of Bob Dylan art.  A pity because it looks intriguing.

Bob Dylan Art #8: Mood Swings – Iron Works

Bob Dylan sculpture in iron at Mood Swings exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

Iron Works © Bob Dylan 2013

I was impressed, if a little confused, by the scale of Bob Dylan Mood Swings, staged in November 2013 at Halcyon Gallery, London.

The exhibition catalogue covered the iron sculptures, which I found interesting, if unengaging. I could see the skill, but the art escaped me.

I was confused by the curation.  The three contiguous mini-exhibitions at the Halcyon Gallery – Gangster Doors, Revisionist Art Series, and Side Tracks – competed for attention with Bob Dylan’s iron creations.

Bob Dylan Art #9: Mood Swings – Gangster Doors

Bob Dylan art, Mood Swings, Gangster Doors, Mood Swings exhibition, Halcyon Gallery, London 2013

John Dillinger, Gangster Doors © Bob Dylan 2013

Gangster Doors was a series of six distressed car doors inspired by the exploits of folkloric US criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger.

Shown alongside Bob Dylan Mood Swings – Iron Works, staged in November 2013 at Halcyon Gallery, London, it seemed almost incidental.

I generally admire Bob Dylan art, especially the paintings and drawings, and I’m particularly fond of some of the Drawn Blank, Brazil, Asia and New Orleans pieces.  But Mood Swings – Gangster Doors, like Mood Swings – Iron Works, as well as Revisionist Art, leave me cold.  I suspect that they might be very collectable, but they fail to excite.

Bob Dylan Art #10: Face Value

Bob Dylan art - Face Value, London

Face Value exhibition poster © Bob Dylan and National Portrait Gallery London 2013

Face Value, a set of 12 pastel on paper portraits, occupied a small room of the National Portrait Gallery, London from August 2013 to January 2014.

The National Portrait Gallery, located in the very heart of tourist London, must be one of the most accessible in the world. It carries the prestige of a well-funded national collection. And entry is free.

I popped in several times and enjoyed each viewing, admiring Bob Dylan’s skills as a portraitist: he endows his subjects with life, personality, individuality.

I’d guess that the accessibility of the gallery, complemented by a lengthy run and a fine, widely-available catalogue, made Face Value the most popular Bob Dylan art exhibition so far.

Bob Dylan art: likes and dislikes

Of all the Bob Dylan art exhibited to the end of 2014, I favour the paintings – whether in water colours, gouache or acrylic.  Many are engaging, stimulating, pleasing.  It’s typical of contrarian Bob Dylan that, rejecting the Zeitgeist of abstraction and conceptual art, he opted to start showing his art in the guise of a traditional figurative painter.

His signature neo-Expressionist style, with its echoes of early twentieth century German and French painting, marks him as a singular talent.  I can visualise Bob Dylan images hanging alongside canvases by Ecole de Paris masters like Georges Rouault and Chaim Soutine at the school’s unofficial HQ, the magnificent Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, on the Right Bank of the Seine, just upstream of Trocadero.

My painterly prejudices prevent me, however, from embracing Bob Dylan art in other media. Iron Works and the Gangster Doors – the two series on show in the Mood Swings show in London – didn’t engage me at all. Neither did the Revisionist Art – Thirty Works by Bob Dylan.  My tastes are probably more conventional, more conservative than I realised: maybe I need to widen my horizons.

Overall, the Bob Dylan art presented in most of these ten series, is impressive. It’s an eloquent riposte to the naysayers – hardcore Dylan followers included – who denigrate the work.   Perhaps it’s time they looked again.  Bob Dylan is now much more than a giant of twentieth century music. He has established his credentials as a multi-disciplinary creative artist.

These ten series of Bob Dylan art in just eight years reveal him to be a prolific visual artist. Who knows how much more we can expect?

What do you think of Bob Dylan art?

Your comments are very welcome – please Leave a Reply via the link at the top of this post.

Bob Dylan art: coming soon on ROCK ART EDITIONS

You’ll find my reviews of The Drawn Blank Series 2008-14, the 2014 releases, and Side Tracks in the ROCK ART EDITIONS Archive.  I’ll be reviewing other Bob Dylan art series here soon.

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