MIAMI (AP) — Bob Dylan has been telling stories through songs for 60 years. But recently, the master American lyricist also captured moments in a new series of paintings that, just like his songs, are intimate and a bit mysterious.
The most comprehensive exhibition of visual art by the Nobel laureate to be held in the United States is presented on Tuesday in Miami at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Museum of Art. Forty new pieces by the 80-year-old songwriter will be presented for the first time.
The exhibition with more than 180 acrylics, watercolors, drawings and metalwork sculptures will start the same week as Art Basel Miami Beach and will continue until April 17 with no future shutdowns yet announced. Tickets cost $16 and are reserved by time slots.
“Retrospectrum” includes some of Dylan’s artwork from the 1960s, starting with pencil sketches he made of his songs such as “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” His pieces, on loan from private collections around the world, also include abstract sketches from the 1970s, and cover six major rooms, but the vast majority were created within the past 15 years.
“He was recognized in every possible way as a writer, as a composer, as a singer, as a performer, etc. Now is when the audience also sees the final element,” said Shai Baitel, who designed the show as artistic director of the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art, where it debuted. “Dylan is able to express himself in so many ways.”
A breathtaking giant canvas of a sunset in Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona line serves as an introduction to Dylan’s latest works. He mentioned his admiration for Western filmmaker John Ford, who used this same iconic landscape in several of his films.
Past the wall with the painting of the reddish hillocks is a room with the new series called “Deep Focus”, named after a cinematic technique where nothing is blurred.
“All these images come from films. They try to highlight the different difficult situations people find themselves in,” Dylan said on one of the walls. “Dreams and patterns are the same – life as it comes to you in all its forms.
Dylan offers a lot of city life like this Ashcan School advocated artists when portraying realistic images of people’s hardships at the turn of the 20th century.
A jazz band plays in a colorful club in one of the paintings; a gray-haired man counts wads of cash in another. It depicts two men fighting in a boxing match and depicts a woman sitting alone in a bar drinking and smoking with an intriguing look on her face.
Linking images from Dylan’s latest works to specific films will require research on the internet.
Richard F. Thomas is a Harvard University classic who studied and wrote about Dylan. He said in an essay for the exhibit that he found references online linking one of the paintings showing a man in a black leather jacket pouring sugar over his coffee to a scene of a restaurant in the 1981 film “The Loveless”, where actor Willem Dafoe plays a biker.
Thomas found a scene from the 1971 film “Shaft” with actor Richard Roundtree ordering street food in Times Square. Other new works show cowboys, men in undershirts, and barber poles, another recurring object used by Dylan.
“Like the scenes he’s created in songs all these years, the scenes in ‘Deep Focus’ will occupy Dylan’s seekers for years to come,” Thomas wrote.
Along with works from his new series, other works that will be shown in Miami have already been exhibited at venues such as the Halcyon Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Previous paintings reflect images of America from the perspective of a road traveler. Realistic depictions of restaurants, motels, marquees, gas stations, and train tracks appear frequently in his works.
“It’s almost like looking at a brochure of his memories,” said Baitel, the artistic director.
Dylan also experimented with perspective, apparently emulating Vincent Van Gogh’s work in “The Bedroom” to paint the corners of a New York apartment. And he made variations by drawing the same characters by changing the color of the decorations and their clothes, or simply by representing them at another time of the day, like the Rouen Cathedral series by Claude Monet.
The exhibition offers interactive exhibits for music fans. The 64 cards with words taken from the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” that he ran through in one of the first music videos ever made have been framed and lined up in eight columns by eight rows, while the clip plays on a loop.
It is not yet known if Dylan, who is currently on tour for his 39th album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, will come to visit him.
Jordana Pomeroy, director of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, said it will be her first ticketed event since the museum opened in 2008. Florida International University will host a Dylan symposium inviting scholars to discuss of the entire work of the songwriter. .
“That’s the treatment we’re going to give Bob Dylan,” Pomeroy said.