Kennedy Museum Hosts Exhibit Of Legendary Pop Artist, OU Alumnus

Posted on:

< < Back to

The Kennedy Museum at Ohio University is currently hosting a show of major American artist and OU alumnus Jim Dine.

"Jim Dine is probably one of the most prolific and profound artists of our time," says Petra Kralickova, curator of the Kennedy Museum of Art. "I think he's most famous for his icons, because he's very recognizable in terms of the icons that he uses. Whether it's the bathrobe, the hearts, the Venus or the tools. And now he's starting to use Pinocchio. But I think his paintings, his two dimensional work is mostly why he is well known."

"Oh, good Lord, he's famous," said Don Roberts, professor emeritus of art at Ohio University. Roberts, who taught printmaking, has followed Dine's career closely. "He was one of the original Pop artists," said Roberts. "He was also very active in what we call 'happenings' and he's climbed the ladder of success to the point where he is well known in England, all over Europe and across the United States. He's a great artist."

Since the early 1960s, Dine's iconic prints and large sculptures have made him world famous. Now a selection of that art is on display at the Kennedy Museum at Ohio University, Dine's alma mater. He graduated in 1957 with an BFA.

"He was a wonderful student," said Roberts. "He got very interested in printmaking and made wonderful, wonderful, huge woodcuts." Roberts said Dine would go to university construction sites and acquire hollow core doors that he would carve into huge woodblocks to print from.

Renowned sculptor David Hostetler, another retired OU professor, first met Dine when the young man came to a Friday night party at Hostetler's studio.

"Someone brought him up here to see the school and that was 1955-56, somewhere in there," said Hostetler. "At night in my studio on Highland Avenue, it was probably a Friday night. As a lot of people know, I have a jazz club — a tradition that still goes on — and somebody brought Jim in. He was a very young man, probably about 17, and before I knew it, he had one of my favorite drums and was playing along. I'm looking at the kid, who I don't know yet, and thinking there's something about this guy. This guy is different. And I remember thinking when he left, that kid is special, I hope I see him again."

Dine did enroll and Hostetler ended up teaching him sculpture. The two became friends and they started taking weekend trips to New York City to visit the galleries and museums.

"Without Jim's chutzpah, I would not have made the effort and through him I met these young artists," Hostetler said. "Oldenburg was only 19 then…Red Grooms…the list goes on and on. Now, I would have never met these people. Jim somehow had, and probably still does have, keen insight as to who was important, who is on the cusp of things.  And he has made an incredible success of his artistic life."

By the early 1960s, Dine was in the epicenter of the avant garde art world in New York City. He staged "happenings" — experimental performance art works — with Claes Oldenburg and musician John Cage. His work was part of the first Pop Art exhibits in America. By 1970, the Whitney Museum of American Art had a retrospective show of his work.

However, one of his first exhibits was in Athens. According to Don Roberts and David Hostetler, as a young graduate student, Dine had a very controversial exhibit in the OU Library, then located in Chubb Hall. The lines to get in, Hostetler said, were half a block long.

"This was the only show that had security guards brought in," said Hostetler. "Jim knew that I didn't like collages so he did an 'un-collage for DLH,' my initials, by making a collage and then tearing everything off of it so all you saw was the glue, and the pattern that had been there."

Dine had other pieces too. One, on religion, involved a bible sawed in half. Another was just matches struck on a canvas,so the burn marks became the art. "A nice exhibition that was very controversial, and I have all the letters and steaming commentary that was printed in the newspaper about that exhibition," said Roberts.

"A bit of a rebel who would break the rules," said Kralickova in describing Dine. "And really I think what Jim Dine wanted to experience at a university was to use the facility. He was always a very progressive artist that wanted to learn things on his own."

That was over 50 years ago. Although he's tried to return a couple of times, Dine hasn't been back to Athens since then. His artwork will be on display  at the Kennedy Museum of Art until Nov. 27, with the artist finally returning to campus in November to give a public lecture.

Sandra Sleight-Brennan is an independent radio producer and frequent contributor to WOUB.