Forty new paintings by American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan go on show this weekend in Denmark, but museum-goers will hardly find “Blowin’ in the Wind” or references to other famous lyrics in the pictures.
he exhibition at the National Gallery in Copenhagen from September 4 to February 20, 2011 presents scenes of everyday life in Brazil, done in bold acrylic colors by the man whose 1960s songs helped define an era and who continues to record and tour.
“The Brazil Series” represents a new chapter in the painterly activities of the 69-year-old Dylan, who has painted and drawn for decades and exhibited his watercolors in Chemnitz, Germany, in 2007 and London in 2008.
“Artistic crossovers are not always successful — Bob Dylan’s is,” said museum director Karsten Ohrt. “This is another side of Bob Dylan, but still very much Bob Dylan.”
Calling him “a remarkable visual artist,” Ohrt dismissed as absurd the question of whether the museum would have shown the paintings if they had been done by someone other than Dylan.
But Curator Kasper Monrad told reporters at an advance viewing on Thursday there was no doubt that the exhibition came about “because it’s Bob Dylan.”
“He’s perhaps the greatest musician and songwriter of the 20th century who has embarked on a new project,” Monrad said.
“The paintings are not illustrations of the songs,” he said.
“We don’t see Shakespeare in the alley and so forth,” he said, alluding to the song “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” from Dylan’s 1966 Blonde on Blonde album.
In conversations with the gallery, Dylan said that if he could have expressed in song what he has now painted, he would have written a song instead, Monrad said.
The pictures were painted on canvass at Dylan’s studio over a period of 15 months from early 2009 to March this year, Monrad said. They are based on sketches done on paper earlier by the artist who has visited Brazil many times.
Ohrt said Dylan’s painting is evocative of the American Ashcan school and German expressionism, among others.
There are urban and rural scenes of Brazil and some of the pictures are like still cinematic shots. Others depict emotional dramas, such a quarrel between a father and son in a barber’s shop.
The reclusive Dylan would not attend the opening and has not disclosed any plans to come to Copenhagen, Monrad said.
But Ohrt said he was sure that Dylan would turn up some day to see the Copenhagen exhibition, perhaps “unannounced and on a Monday when we are closed.”