New York

Jim Dine

Sonnabend Gallery

One somehow expects that an exhibit of Jim Dine’s drawings will concentrate on the depiction of tools. Tools for Dine have become a personal emblem for the nostalgic poetry of everyday objects. In this sense, his recent drawings contain no surprises. Generally the tools are rendered vertically in a row across the paper. Scrapbook remnants and ordinary things are tacked on at various intervals—dated postcard images, cut-out magazine photos of vegetables, an HB pencil, torn bits of paper, an old toothbrush. The tools themselves are lovingly modulated. They disappear behind a squiggle of lines or ghost into phantom images left by erasure. The drawings are worked and reworked; the paper becomes worn in places, the images smudged and battered. The diverse combinations of elements in Dine’s works impel a multiplicity of scattered associations. There are the quiet sexual puns —the juxtapositions of pointed phallic-shaped tools with old photos of stylish “girlies,” the Oldenburg humor in a screwdriver placed next to a faded postcard of the Washington Monument. And there are the ties between artist and workman/craftsman: The functional similarities between scissors and saws, pencils and awls. Parallels also emerge between the tools as instruments for making marks and the drawing as a system of different types of marking. Yet the strongest association one has with Dine’s work is of a Proustian time past recaptured. The evidence of process—the scribbling over or ripping away of images, the sometimes shadowy sometimes painstaking evocation of form, the pasting on of fragments—insists upon the passage of time in the creation of the drawings. Dine’s intuitive, stream of consciousness manner of assimilating objects increases one’s perception of his drawings as journalistic scrapbooks. They are visual relics which stand as memory traces of the wanderings of the artist’s imagination.

The problem with writing about group shows is that one feels compelled to fabricate some catchall generalization with which to categorize the works being shown. Yet the very diversity of the artists represented in “Made in Philadelphia 2” forestalls any tidy ordering of information. About all one can say is that the works happen to be made in Philadelphia—beyond that it is a matter of individual sensibilities which reveals less about Philadelphia as a particular art-making location than about the heterogeneity of the overall art scene.

And yet perhaps the word to use here is homogeneity. For the artists in the show offer little deviation from what has already been accepted and at times exhaustively explored within the art world. It is not that the particular works are any less interesting than much of what is shown in New York. It is rather that what one sees is the repetition, with individual variation, of themes that one has previously encountered—a phenomenon prevalent throughout the art world at the moment. One wonders, then, how adequately this art represents the Philadelphia art scene, or whether there isn’t some more exciting art going on.

Susan Heinemann