Whitehot Magazine


Jim Dine, Two Thieves, One Liar, 2006, charred wood and enamel on wood, Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York


at PACE WILDENSTEIN GALLERY (05/05/07 – 06/09/07)


While Jim Dine is already famous for his NY “happenings” in the 60’s and for his paintings and prints, the 17 wood carved sculptures on display at pace Wildenstein this month lend new weight to his explorations of the beloved tale : Pinocchio.

The allegorical and psychological connotations of Dine’s work based on the Pinocchio fable are clearly evident. But instead of dwelling on the conceptual elements which is where many artists and critics become entangled, the more interesting aspects in this culminating series are found in the physical work itself, in the handling of massive blocks of wood, in patinas and cracks and the roughly hewn contours of these figures, in a return to sculpture that shows the marks of hand tools and chisels, rough saws, walnut burnished with linseed oil, turpentine and charred wood. There is an brut quality to this work that tears it away from fairly tale and fable. While Dine has been fascinated with Carlo Collodi’s original Pinocchio text for over twenty years, these 17 wood pieces, some of them on a monumental scale, lift the classic portrayal of rosy cheeked Pinocchio into a darker and more vicious world. In the sculpture titled Two Thieves, One Liar, which happens to be the single work that depicts a literal scene from the text, Dine has burned the wood on the fox and the cat. This charred approach creates a menacing aura through material alone. This is compounded by their posture which lends the piece elements of cartoon illustration, minus the innocence.  In similar ways, the actual carving, the saw lines and the unhesitating use of vivid acrylic paint convey a sense of violence.  In contrast, the more “conceptual” pieces, combining real tools such as saws and hammers, as well as a cast aluminum hoist reminiscent of an executioner’s galley, are more finished and somehow visually less interesting.

There are subtle elements of African and Mesoamerican art in these wood figures as well as possible winks at Michelangelo’s Prisoner series, in this case, Pinocchio freeing himself from half hewn tree trunks, some of which still have the bark left on.  One of the more interesting works is reminiscent of a carved religious icon in unfinished relief. Half of the work is raw wood, but where the blinded face of Pinocchio emerges from this mass; acrylic reds and yellows stain the surface of his body. The colors are not applied delicately--- it looks like a bucket of house paint was used with a cheap Chinese paintbrush, and this is exactly the tone this subject demands. While this work is vaguely cartoonish, these are terrifying sculptures, in the best possible sense.


Jim Dine was born in 1935 in Ohio. He relocated to NY in 1958 and quickly rose to fame along with other artists such as Lucas Samaras, Claes Oldenburg, Red Grooms and Allan Kaprow. He has had over 220 solo exhibitions and five large surveys or retrospectives since the late 1970’s. His work can be found in numerous collections worldwide, including The Hirshorn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, The MOMA and the Tate Gallery, London.


The Pinocchio exhibition is at Pace Wildenstein, 534 West 25th Street, NYC until June 9.

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Stephanos Papadopoulos


Stephanos Papadopoulos was born in North Carolina and raised in Paris and Athens. Educated in the and Edinburgh, he holds a degree in classical archaeology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was invited to the Rat Island Foundation by Derek Walcott in 1998.  His work has been published in periodicals such as The Yale Review, Poetry Review, Stand Magazine, The New Republic and many others. He has translated works of the Greek poets, Yiannis Ritsos and Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke. he is editor and co-translator of Derek Walcott’s Selected Poems, 2007.  Lost Days, his first collection, is published by Michael Hulse with Leviathan Press in London and Rattapallax Press in New York. His second book Hotel-Dieu is forthcoming and he is at work on a book about the Black Sea Greeks. stpapas@hotmail.com

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