Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TC: Jim Dine: Old Me, Now


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)


gamefaced said...

amazing to me how much you produce. or channel.
what have you. (?)


TC said...


It seems (weirdly enough) things are speeding up toward the end. There's probably a name for the phenomenon in quantum physics.

In human biological terms the word would be exhaustion.

In any case, thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

Only old men can write. Write from a heart that has lived/experienced life. I love old men. I love their faces,I love their eyes; that tell so many tales.

TC said...

Thank you SarahA,

It is rumoured that old men love to hear such.

Marie W said...

A kind Queen sent me the link to this portrait and to the pictures that were accompanying them but alas gone. What a great blog, Tom. The wordplay on Old me, now alone... Yes, the skull in the mirror is there at all times. Look at it insistently or ignore it, it will never ignore you.
(things are speeding up towards the end, what a bone cracking self-deprecating sense of humour. Love it)

TC said...

Marie, about the skull in the mirror -- too right, mate!

Thanks for dropping in here, my dear. It has been a bit lonesome since whenever it was that some jealous robots from space dropped in and took away Jim's images.

(Don't you think jealousy must be in the running for the worst of human vices?)

Of course, they're just looking out for his best interests, but still -- they don't consult him first.

After all, they're only robots, what should we expect?

Marie W said...

So glad your Angel drove me to this post, Tom. Robots from space are vile enough, and now we have JEALOUS robots from space flying around here? We are doomed.
Now to enter this comment I have to prove I am not a robot. They want me to type in "nounri sent". Is that something a robot wouldn't say? Bah....