The most complete exhibition ever of Dylan as visual artist shows him a sort of imitation Edward Hopper of Hibbing, with a heavy dose of Van Gogh and a hint of late period Winslow Homer.
This Bob Dylan the Visual Artist exhibit, “Retrospectrum,” is “a conversation between the artist and his songs,” a wide visual survey of the Nobel laureate’s influences — folk music to movies, lonesome prairies to city bars, from Minnesota and North Dakota to New York and New Orleans, all tried out in sketches, paintings and ironwork sculpture befitting a product of Minnesota’s “Iron Range.”
There’s a fascinating room of works inspired by Dylan’s many visits to New Orleans, other pieces with a Key West lineage — New York street scenes, others from the Great Plains, folk music reveries on trains, homages to Woody Guthrie, diners, dives, bars and drive-ins.
And then I duck into a gallery filled with the most polished paintings of all. Even though I got there when the exhibit opened and they hadn’t set out the brochures guide to the show to lead you through it, there’s an iconic image of Robert Mitchum at a bar. “Farewell My Lovely?”
Dylan copies stills from movies? Yes he does, and beautifully. Any film buff would be lucky to have these pieces hanging at home.
Robert Duvall must be the preacher exhorting his flock in “The Apostle.” The seedy jungle bar, another fellow I ran into there pointed out, was inspired by William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer.”
And there’s this Dylanesque faux cowpoke leaning against the bar, possibly staring at the mechanical bull from “Urban Cowboy.”
“Deep Focus” he calls the section of film-inspired paintings, glimpses of “Taxi Driver” and other obvious ones, and obscure images copied from 1930s newsreels.
Much of this work has never before been shown in the US. There are handwritten lyrics of many of his greatest songs paired with sometimes representative sketches of “Maggie’s Farm” or “Girl of the North Country,” and sometimes the pairings are ironic. “Song for Woody” paired with a sketch of perhaps Louis XV., etc. That stuff came from “Mondo Scripto.”
It’s at the Frost Museum of Art on the Florida International University campus in Miami for a bit longer. April, to be exact.
Listen closely, and you can almost hear Springsteen shouting “Honey, I think I need to stop by the paint supplies store” across his lonesome, echoey Jersey ranch.