Exhibition Celebrates Bob Dylan’s Prowess as a Visual Artist

Acrylic Painting by Bob Dylan

“Cold Day,” 2020. Acrylic on canvas.

Most of us know Bob Dylan for his iconic music. The lyrics to songs like Blowin' in the Wind, Like a Rolling Stone, and Knocking on Heaven's Door read like poetry. But a new exhibition at Florida International University's Frost Art Museum shows a new side of his artistry. Bob Dylan: Retrospectum is a deep dive into Bob Dylan as a visual artist, with nearly 200 paintings, drawings, and ironwork sculptures on display.

The exhibition debuted in Shanghai in 2019 and is, according to FIU, “the most expansive and in-depth exhibition of Bob Dylan's artwork seen on U.S. soil.” The American opening of the exhibition also features something special. Among the artwork on display is Dylan's new series of paintings, Deep Focus. On view for the first time, these paintings see the artist selecting scenes from films and transforming them into pieces of art.

The series is sprinkled among his wide-reaching portfolio of work, which spans decades. For Dylan, seeing his work laid out together gives him a new perspective on his art. “Seeing many of my works years after I completed them is a fascinating experience,” he shares. “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; a continuing of the way we go forth in the world and the way our perceptions are shaped and altered by life. One can be as profoundly influenced by events in Morretes, Brazil as they can be by the man who sells El País in Madrid.”

Dylan's work shows that his genius extends well beyond music. His acrylics are rendered in rich detail with perspective that creates an incredible depth of space. His interest in the urban landscape is clear, as cities are a dominant actor in his pieces. Dylan's drawings show a sure hand, with decisive strokes used to bring figures to life. And, in some instances, he brings together his visual art and music. For example, his drawing Like a Rolling Stone is accompanied by handwritten lyrics to the classic song, which makes it all the more meaningful.

Also on display are a series of ironwork sculptures forged from welded horseshoes and old tools. These sculptures show yet another facet of Dylan's creativity and are a visual feast for the eyes. The ironworks are the result of a childhood growing up in an area known as “Iron Range.” Surrounded by machinery and materials in his youth, these memories have manifested into ironworks that become gates, wall hangings, and screens.

Bob Dylan: Retrospectum is on view in Miami at the Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, until April 17, 2022. It is accompanied by a full-color gallery guide that is also available for viewing online.

Frost Art Museum in Miami is hosting the U.S.'s most comprehensive exhibit of Bob Dylan's visual art.

Churchgoers by Bob Dylan

“Churchgoers,” 2012. Oil on canvas.

Emmet Street Painting by Bob Dylan

“Emmet Street,” 2020. Acrylic on canvas.

Nearly 200 paintings, drawings, and ironwork sculptures are on display.

Elevated Train Artwork by Bob Dylan

“Elevated Train,” (triptych), 2020. Acrylic on canvas.

Like a Rolling Stone Drawing by Bob Dylan

“Like A Rolling Stone,” 2018. Drawing in graphite on paper.

Bob Dylan Drawings

“Like a Rolling Stone,” 2018.

Mixed Media Artwork by Bob Dylan

“Untitled,” 1973. Mixed media on paper.

The exhibition gives a full picture of Dylan's artistic sensibilities beyond music.

Ironwork Wall Hanging by Bob Dylan

“Ironwork Wall Hanging (Yellow Plow Top),” 2015. Iron and vintage objects.

Art by Bob Dylan

“Man on a Bridge,” 2009. Acrylic on canvas.

Watercolor by Bob Dylan

“Voter Registration Store, Poughkeepsie,” 2015-16. Watercolor on paper.

Bob Dylan: Retrospectum is on view until April 17, 2022.

Painting by Bob Dylan

“Abandoned Drive-In, Yucca Valley,” 2017. Acrylic on canvas.

Frost Art Museum: Website | Instagram | Facebook

All images courtesy of Bob Dylan. My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Frost Art Museum.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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