From what we have been able to gather thus far, six of the 18 paintings of the Asia Series were inspired by photos. What about the other dozen?
For the sake of argument, let us presume that all 18 are "copies" of photos. What's more, that neither Dylan nor the gallery has credited the photographers.
From an artistic standpoint, has Dylan committed an unpardonable sin? As has been mentioned previously, many painters paint from photos - either from pictures that they have taken or from photos by others.
Michael Gray - who at first had ridiculed Dylan's Christmas album and then recanted after actually listening to it - is suddenly an art expert and has criticized Dylan's paintings for being exact copies. But are they? Most, if not all of the six photos that have been obsessively scrutinized, are black and white. Dylan has made the artistic decision to use specific and vibrant colors, and brush strokes of a certain texture. Although he is very faithful in his representation of the photos, there are clear differences. And the scale of his paintings are different, too.
Which brings me to the Gagosian gallery. It clearly left the impression that Dylan had actually witnessed the images that he painted, although that strains credulity simply because so much of what is depicted is of a bygone era. But is that Dylan's fault? In his reply to an interview published in the catalog, Dylan does acknowledge that some of his source material are photos. Well, what about the other dozen paintings that might not be sourced from photos?
Before we condemn the man, let us wait for the all the facts.
This reminds me of the trumped-up controversy of Dylan yielding to Chinese censors earlier this year. In fact, Dylan did no such thing. His set lists from his shows in China more or less similar to other concerts he had been performing for months. But the presumption was that he should have spoken out against Chinese human rights abuses (as if there are none in the U.S?) Dylan gave up finger-pointing songs back in the early 1960s, and it is presumptuous of us to expect him to revert to that protest role today.
Similarly, the fixation with so-called uncredited sourcing of paintings reflects an ignorance of art. From Andy Warhol to many artists today, appropriation of images is part of the artistic process. We all inscribe on the palimpsest. Check out Ecclesiastes 1:9. Or better yet: James Joyce's dictum that the role of the artist is to make the same anew.
It is wonderfully inspiring that Dylan is continuing to produce art, and to branch out in different directions. Obviously, he's not doing this to profit. He does it because he doesn't look back.
Positively 4th Street, indeed!
i've only scrolled through a few pages of this, so I apologize if this is a repeat, but has anyone looked into the stories behind the photographs themselves? Perhaps there's a reason dylan's paintings are nodding back to them so clearly and directly. i'm sure he is aware of the difference between painting and painting by numbers. there could be many reasons for mimicry actually - he's a little out of place/time bringing the idea of painterly impressions of the world/painter-journalism to the contemporary art scene. perhaps he's trying to make a statement about what the painting captures versus the photograph.