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.