BOB DYLAN PAINTS by Veronica Maitin

“The paintings in Bob Dylan’s The Asia Series displayed at the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan, [opened the Sept. 20, 2011] 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.” [1]

In attempts to recreate his “visual journey” Dylan has taken different photographers’ compositions and recreated it with increible detail. Dylan states that these are representations of lived memories of his past travels, but the paintings are mere replicas of what other artists (the photographers) captured  with their lense. So they are not infact his observations or experiences, they are someone esles that he has taken in order to create a story. So can these paintings qualify as plagiarism or  as “borrowing”. In the visual art world it is hard to identify to what extent the two pieces of work must diferénciate in order to not be called plariarism but appropriation.

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This is one of the paintings by Dylan titled Trade and a photograph shot by Henri-Cartier-Bresson (From 1948).

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Another example is Dylan’s painting titled Opium and Leon Busy’s Photo Woman Smoking Opium.

In an interview refered to by the gallery; Dylan explains says “I paint 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. What I’m trying to bring out in complex scenes, landscapes, or personality clashes, I do it in a lot of different ways. I have the cause and effect in mind from the beginning to the end. But it has to start with something tangible.”[2]

So where do his paintings stand in terms of creativity and innovation?


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