By MATTHEW PERPETUA
The paintings in Bob Dylan‘s “The Asia Series,” which are currently on displayat the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan, have come under fire for their resemblance to widely available pre-existing photographs. The series of paintings, which are said to part of a “visual journal” made by the singer during his travels through Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea, have been compared to famous photos by well-known photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Léon Busy.
“The most striking thing is that Dylan has not merely used a photograph to inspire a painting: he has taken the photographer’s shot composition and copied it exactly,” wrote Dylan critic Michael Gray in a post on his blog, Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. “He’s replicated everything as closely as possible. That may be a (very self-enriching) game he’s playing with his followers, but it’s not a very imaginative approach to painting. It may not be plagiarism but it’s surely copying rather a lot.”
While some fans in the Dylan-centric online community Expecting Rain have voiced concern about the songwriter’s highly derivative visual art, others have argued that “quotation” is a part of the tradition of art. Nevertheless, it’s a bit difficult to reconcile this notion with the fact that the work has been presented as coming from the rock legend’s “firsthand” experiences abroad.
Dylan has, in his way, been forthcoming about using photographs in his paintings. In a statement in the exhibition’s catalog, the singer says that he paints “mostly from real life. It has to start with that. Real people, real street scenes, behind the curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work.”
I love this clip from the Showtime series, ‘The L Word’. One of the characters, Jenny Schecter, has written a story for The New Yorker that provides not so obscure references to her friends and their lives. In this scene, Jenny’s friend Alice has just recently read the magazine article and confronts Jenny about her lack of imagination in her ‘fictional’ story. Who is right? Who wins the argument? Every sitcom or film usually has some thinly veiled resemblance to a certain character or specific situation that happened in real life. So does that mean that writers/artists/songwriters, etc. are just poachers who take existing ideas and situations and exploit them? Play this clip and then post your opinions. Which side are you on? Alice or Jenny?
Welcome to Imitation of Art
After obsessing for days about a captivating topic for my spanking new blog, I finally had an epiphany.
When I paint, or look for new graphic design concepts, or even when I pick the clothes I’m going to wear for the day, I always reference an example of someone or something who did it the best. I either try to improve on the general idea, or sometimes I take the exact formula and repurpose it for my own selfish reasons. My justification is that it’s a green approach to reuse what’s valuable and fundamental. While my reasons are justified, underneath all of my confident bravado lies an insecure artist who feels like a fraud–because none of my ideas truly come from a blank slate. Should inspiration come from the things and people I surround myself with? Or should inspiration come from within. Or, horror of horrors, should it come from BOTH?
It’s said that in regards to politics, the environment, or fashion, topics and statements continue to be recycled and made to look brand new. Can the same be said when referencing art and music? Absolutely.
What this blog seeks to do is to start a dialogue about the original concept versus a concept that was inspired by something else. When does paying homage to an artist from another era transition from tribute to just an obvious carbon copy?
I intend to post songs, television clips, movies and art (including my own) so that I may get the public’s feedback on the fine line between creation and blatant duplication.