Pinocchio Pop Art Prints Jim Dine at Notre Dame Snite Museum


Jim Dine donates works to the Snite Museum

SOUTH BEND – Blotchy, expressive lines and shading give Jim Dine’s prints and paintings a gritty human feeling, a glimpse into an iconic artist who helped define the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

This earthy side, which contrasts with the clean, mechanical feel of works by movement compatriots like Andy Warhol, is on display in the “Jim Dine: American Icon” exhibition through December 11 at the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame – 82 rooms in all. But that’s not all. They’re also among 238 prints Dine donated to Snite for safekeeping, thanks to a friendship with director Joe Becherer.

Becherer admits he was “flabbergasted” when Dine, now 86, offered the unsolicited gift. Becherer says there are perhaps only a handful of museums that have received substantial collections directly from Dine, who now lives in France and Germany. Others may have purchased the artist’s works. But the size, at 238 pieces, he says, “is something else entirely.”

By comparison, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, he says, has more than 800 of Dine’s early prints.

The current exhibition offers something of a biographical tour of the Cincinnati-born artist’s life from 1969 to the present day — from self-portraits that research his own aging mortality to Dine’s well-known study of hearts, dresses, and Pinocchio. .

Each piece is captivating. Prints are a mixture of mediums, such as lithographs which are also hand painted or woodcuts and etchings with hand paint or lithographs which are etched into copper plates and then printed.

They each enlightened him personally. Growing up as a poor student, embarrassed by being left-handed and dyslexic, he turned to art as a refuge from his academic frustrations.

His self-portraits are dark, with creased lines and unfinished spaces around the periphery, similar to those of his favorite self-portraitist, the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn.

On a sign next to the portraits, Dine explains: “He found his face as infinitely interesting as I find mine. … what you see in the mirror every morning, the many disguises.

Becherer adds that Dine was “very aware of how artists are connected.”

In some prints, Dine depicts tools scattered in various arrangements, representing his own practical work. Birds and a monkey apparently come from his dream images.

A gallery room looks like a tribute to old fashion magazines. It’s full of depictions of dresses on Dine’s torsos, each with striking colors: one in bright red, another in burnt orange and mustard yellow, and another in green. Dresses began to appear in his work in 1965. He is quoted as saying, “The dress became a stand-in for me and a kind of self-portrait.”

Also in this piece is Dine’s portrait of his wife, photographer Diana Michener, with Dine’s poetry titled “On Pain” scrawled on the sides.

Dine’s earnest and serious Pinocchios bears less resemblance to the 1940 Disney animated film, perhaps leaning more towards the original character of Italian author Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel.

Last January, New York publication “Studio International” quoted Dine as saying, “I saw the movie when I was five or six, so it (Pinocchio) has walked with me my whole life. … It’s a story that makes a lot of sense to an artist, since it’s about the alchemy of something…. It’s the talking stick that became a boy, an innocent metaphor for art.

Becherer adds: “He sees himself as both object and creator. So it’s also Geppetto.

Becherer says he selected Dine’s quotes, which are printed on the exhibit panels, from different sources, often from conversations they had had. These are general statements, not aimed at specific parts of the exhibit.

For example, Dine is quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, everyone feels the warm breath of time blowing over them. … There’s no time to lose.”

Dine said while the two had a casual breakfast, Becherer said. Dine had become philosophical about his gift to Snite and staying active.

The quotes and donated art are from a friendship where the two see each other the most each year, where Becherer calls Dine on his birthdays, and where Dine and his wife wrote a letter of condolence when Becherer’s mother-in-law passed away last year. Becherer flew in for an artistic opening for Dine in Rome just before the pandemic hit.

They had met in the 1990s because Becherer, an Ohio University alum, wanted to meet Dine. The organizers of an art vernissage in Chicago presented them.

But Becherer says Dine chose the Snite for the gift because he wanted his works to be seen, not just stored. He liked how the Snite presents a mix of classic works and how students, teachers and the general public use the museum’s exhibits. Another draw may have been the new museum Notre Dame is building on campus along Angela Boulevard to replace the Snite, Raclin Murphy Art Museum, which Becherer hopes will be a national attraction.

When asked if Dine’s works would resurface in the new museum, he said it was hard to name a time when pieces might be juggled into the exhibition schedule. But, he adds, “this is not a unique case”, noting that some of them could arise in smaller shows or be used in educational programs.

Thanks to the pandemic, which has caused the arts to lose revenue, he notes that art museums are taking more from their own collections for display rather than bearing the high costs of traveling exhibitions.

As for the current exposition, he says you can dive into Dine’s intellectual depth or, he notes, “You can leave it like a heart, like a Pinocchio and just enjoy it on that level.”

Email South Bend Tribune reporter Joseph Dits at jdits@sbtinfo.com.

On display

What: “Jim Dine: American Icon”

Or: Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame

When: Until December 11

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.

Admission: Free

Car park: The museum is located just north of the Notre-Dame stadium. The Visitor Fields are south of the stadium, where visitors can use the west end of the Walsh Family Hall of Architecture parking lot. Purchase a permit at a pay station near Post #31 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (the first hour is free). Parking is free after 4 p.m. and on Saturdays.

For more information: Call 574-631-5466 or visit sniteartmuseum.nd.edu.

Elaine F. Brim