I was seventy-four in June...
Age talks about how long a person has existed. These self-portrait drawings are about how many times, I’ve regarded my face minutely and have corrected and erased to get the feeling I want to show most accurately. I now am able, after all this looking, to enlarge my head to become a field of form and chatter and for it to be compared to a vast forest or a limestone quarry, for instance.
Finally, lying is not an option nor is decoration. I am committed to setting the record straight. Don’t worry, I will.
-- from Jim Dine: Old Me, Now: Self-Portrait Drawings, 2008-2009
I am an old man. I avoid mirrors.
Pretty is pretty. But the truth is the truth. Often not pretty.
Instead of looking away from the unprettiness, Jim Dine has made the weight and pull of time into an instrument of vision.
The unrelenting honesty of self-perception is absolutely heroic. Take a hard look at On Ardmore Ave (2009). It will stare right through you.
Hard looking is the mode as well as the subject of this work.
The titles of the drawings tell the story.
Eyes Gone Over, Thin Red Lips, Old Rider, The Stain of Time, Staring in the Evening, Dark Song, Singing Hard Times, Faded Eyes in My Head.
There is a short film I once saw that presents Rembrandt's self-portraits in a swift slideshow, showing the features changing subtly with age as the artist, watching himself with unwavering truthfulness, grows old. Flesh and bone coalescing in an accelerated version of unforgiving meltdown, the unkind work of time upon the human face. It's very moving to see. And Old Me, Now made me think of it.
"Finally, lying is not an option, nor is decoration..."
This may well be no country for old men. Small wonder then that Jim Dine's book comes from a publisher in "The Old World". It speaks to us from Beyond the Limits of Positive Thinking.
Nothing is personal then
And everything is true
Including love's great circumambience
And the skull in the mirror
The mortal intimation
Of souls of beings long since lost
In a forgotten past
And the deep pink nescience
Of the thought evacuated tissue
Glaring back at you
Through the empty eyeholes
In the mask
The New Man: Jim Dine, 2009, from Old Me, Now: Steidl & Partners/Richard Gray Gallery, 2010 (photo by Arthur Aubry via Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago)
Paris After Aldo Died, 2009, from Old Me, Now: Steidl & Partners/Richard Gray Gallery, 2010 (photo by Arthur Aubry via Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago)