www.smithsonianmag.com /smart-news/bob-dylans-paintings-sculptures-and-other-artwork-180979179/

See Bob Dylan's Cinematic Paintings, Welded Sculptures and More

Nora McGreevy 5-7 minutes 12/8/2021
A painting of a man in a bar wiping a glass, while another man is asleep
Bob Dylan, One Too Many, 2020 Image courtesy of Bob Dylan

Over the past 60 years, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has produced some of American culture’s most illustrious, genre-defining songs. His poetic lyrics and innovative melodies, showcased in such hits as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” have inspired anti-war protesters and Rock ‘n’ Roll stars like Bruce Springsteen alike.

Now 80, Dylan continues to perform—and win international awards for his songwriting, including the (much-debated) 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature and a special 2008 Pulitzer Prize citation. But the musician has, in recent decades, increasingly put aside his guitar in favor of the paintbrush, pencil and even welding torch, actively pursuing his passion for the visual arts.

See Bob Dylan's Cinematic Paintings, Welded Sculptures and More
Bob Dylan, Untitled, 1973 Image courtesy of Bob Dylan

Fans now have the chance to see Dylan’s creations up close in his first comprehensive art exhibition in the United States. On view at Florida International University’s Miami-based Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum through April 17, 2022, “Retrospectrum: Bob Dylan” features nearly 200 of Dylan’s sculptures, paintings and drawings.

Curated by art historian Shai Baitel, “Retrospectrum” was first exhibited at the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai, China, in 2019.

“These works have never been shown together in the U.S., and some of them have never been seen by anyone before, so there is much to discover,” Baitel tells Andy Battaglia of ARTNews.

Cold Day, painting by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan, Cold Day, 2020 Image courtesy of Bob Dylan

Though the art on view dates to as far back as the 1960s, the majority of the works were created in the past 15 years, reports Adriana Gomez Licon for the Associated Press (AP). Dylan tends to work in series, often flip-flopping between artistic styles. The artist has created landscapes, nostalgic scenes of Americana along Route 66, illustrations based on his own lyrics and colorful depictions of cities around the world.

“Retrospectrum” also features some of Dylan’s imposing iron “gates.” As James Hall writes for the Telegraph, he welds horseshoes and old tools together to create the scrap-iron sculptures.

Emmet Street by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan, Emmet Street, 2020 Image courtesy of Bob Dylan

The musician himself notes how his artistic output has varied over the years as he finds inspiration in different corners of the world.

“Seeing many of my works years after I completed them is a fascinating experience,” says the musician in a statement. “I don’t really associate them with any particular time or place or state of mind, but view them as part of a long arc. … One can be as profoundly influenced by events in Morretes, Brazil, as they can be by the man who sells El País in Madrid.”

Bob Dylan at Civil Rights March, 1963
Bob Dylan sings at a civil rights march in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The artist’s newest series, Deep Focus, will make its world debut at the Miami show. For the project, Dylan painted 40 large-scale canvases inspired by shots from famous movies, including The Loveless (1981) and the 1971 Blaxploitation film Shaft.

The resulting scenes are cinematic and mysterious. As Dylan explains in the exhibition guide, his goal with the series was “to highlight the different predicaments that people find themselves in” by focusing the viewer’s attention on single scenes from movies.

“Whether it’s [actors] James Cagney or Margaret Rutherford, the dreams and schemes are the same—life as it’s coming at you in all its forms and shapes,” he adds.

Retrospectrum: Bob Dylan” is on view at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami through April 17, 2022.

Recommended Videos

How Minnesota and Music Made Bob Dylan

When a Minnesota boy named Bob Zimmerman began playing folk music in coffeehouses, he changed his stage name and went on to become the musical genius known as Bob Dylan.

0 seconds of 2 minutes, 18 secondsVolume 0%