Here, in the form of covers from famous magazines such as Time and Playboy, Bob Dylan has taken social, political and pop-culture icons and married them with headlines and images either ripped from other publications or just pulled from the ether. The finished pieces, printed on large silkscreened canvas, are both absurd and satirical. They take aim at lofty public figures and celebrities, re-imagining their lives. Also in Dylan’s sights are the magazines themselves, for their covers that encompass dizzying arrays of unrelated subjects and for their lewd and violent imagery, used to catch the eye. Although the materials, processes and results are completely different, the Gates and the Revisionist Art Series share the same re-contextualisation of constituent parts: for the former, tools and pieces of machinery; and for the latter, iconography and headlines. There is a clear separation between the two art forms, yet they have a strikingly similar drive and vivacity.
“Rather than fantasize, be real and draw it only if it is in front of you and if it’s not there, put it there and by making the lines connect, we can vaguely get at something other than the world we know.”
Train Tracks is one of the most iconic drawings from The Drawn Blank Series. The image, of a train track receding into the distance, with no beginning and no end, is perhaps most reminiscent of Dylan’s journey. Having played more than 2,500 shows since June 1988, Dylan continues travelling across the world from city to city. Trains have always played an important part in Dylan’s music, writing and art. In his autobiography, he writes: “I’d seen and heard trains from my earliest childhood days... The sound of trains off in the distance more or less made me feel at home, like nothing else was missing, like I was at some level place, never in any significant danger and everything was fitting together.”
Side Tracks is a running series of 327 unique prints, each hand embellished by Dylan. In each version, he uses the same coloured reproduction as his starting point, but the colour and texture vary depending on the brushstrokes, with each image a more nuanced version of the last. A parallel can be drawn here – between this process of re-working the same graphic to provoke a new set of emotions – and Dylan’s music.
When performing, Bob Dylan strives for the original – so that the audience rarely hear the same version twice. The same progression is true of Dylan’s hand embellished prints. He revisits the same image, re-colouring, re-configuring and re-imagining it; each time producing a new interpretation… and the series multiplies. By doing this, he reveals a flicker of his passing journey, repetitive on the one hand, as he travels from one city to another, but ever changing. Dylan’s prints demonstrate his ability to adapt and refine the original, manipulating our feelings through his revisions. Like their creator, they are themselves on a journey, always evolving, changing, expanding, never still.
Each print in the series has been dated and named by location, evoking a specific time and place on Dylan’s continuous journey. They each reflect a particular emotion and time spent from a life on tour.