THE PLOT THICKENS! Yesterday, we investigated artist Richard Prince‘s outing in Central Park with topless ladies reading Bunny Modern. A tipster who will remain anonymous told us “Bob Dylan was painting on an easel in the background.” He described him as a man with “wild hair and good shades,” painting nudes “with the authority you’d expect of a man who’d been fucked by Patti Smith.” He also sent us images of Bob Dylan’s painting of a topless girl lying on green grass.
Then, a second tipster who will remain anonymous emailed us a photo of Sonia Aquino by Bruno Bisang. “Here is his source material for that portrait,” he stated, undeniably. A-ha! “Glad you found the image helpful.” I contacted our first hot tipper with “The fuck, dude?”
So, let’s talk about this. (I wrote some stuff below these #BOOBS.)
This is what happens when you write about Bob Dylan’s art. You may remember a certain controversy in 2011, when Bob Dylan’s much-hyped “Expecting Rain” exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery came under fire, as The New York Times reported that his paintings were based on photos by photographers like Léon Busy, Dmitri Kessel… and Flickr users. It wouldn’t have been so controversial, had Dylan not explicitly written in his exhibition catalogue: “I paint mostly from real life. Real people, real street scenes… live models,” when he clearly was not. On the debacle, Blake Gopnik insightfully commented that it was not a n00b move — even “John Baldessari, a veteran Los Angeles painter” not only “bases many of his paintings on photos, but often pays other people to paint them.” Just painting would be boring.
Gopnik proposed that this wasn’t plagiarism but conceptual self-awareness, that “Dylan’s ‘appropriations’ may be especially cogent,” that Dylan the artist used old photos to “explore the questionable notion of ‘Asian-ness'” and, thusly, “lock[ed] onto the clichés at its heart.” Dylan was challenging Orientalism! Literally! “They” had it all wrong. In fact, some of “their” two-year-old Dylan the Plagiarist articles have since mysteriously disappeared — like Blouin Art Info’s, leaving behind these provocative dead URLs. Unfold, Art World mystery! Faster. Get with the times.
I’ve always been suspicious of Dylan, specifically, his second Gagosian show which felt like a prank on his patrons — a “rich people will buy anything” type deal — but also, a bigger prank on his easily angered critics who’d blow their load early, like myself. Is this topless, latest Dylan “painting” also commentary? Is Dylan, like his good old friend Richard Prince, a sort of a feminist and by “painting” a famous fashion photographer’s polished image of a bombshell Italian actress and adding some grass by her highly commercialized tits, Dylan is commenting on the public, media and tabloid commodification of a woman? That people who like #BOOBS will retweet anything? And more importantly…
Did Richard Prince paint this painting? Did Richard Prince paint all of Bob Dylan paintings? Greg Allen provided some hefty proof to this theory before, but there, there, it happened, just now! They were “both” “there!” A bait and switch? Internet trollage? Forgive this silly smug machine cog. Here’s to the Gagosian’s Mr. Brainwash! Or something.