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Another Side of Bob Dylan
The Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz is the First to Present the Superstar as a Painter

With The Drawn Black Series, the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz has achieved a veritable coup, mounting the world's first exhibition of Bob Dylan's art. The spectacular show is supported by the Deutsche Bank Foundation, which with this involvement combines its two focal points of support: art and music.

Bob Dylan, Statue of Liberty, 2007
© 2007 Bob Dylan, courtesy Black Buffalo collection

Perhaps no one had actually asked him previously whether he wanted to show his pictures to the public. In any case, Ingrid Nössinger did, and now, eight months after contacting Bob Dylan, the ambitious general director of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz is presenting Dylan the painter. Nössinger had proved with the show Picasso et les femmes, which was also sponsored by the Deutsche Bank Foundation, that important exhibitions can be held at venues outside the usual art centers. Following the exhibition devoted to the French painter genius, now the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz is staging the world premiere of works by the American song and dance man, as Dylan calls himself.

Bob Dylan, Guitar Player, 2007
© 2007 Bob Dylan, courtesy Black Buffalo collection

The show owes its origins to chance – and the fact that the museum director was on the ball. In New York, Ingrid Nössinger came across Drawn Blank, a narrow volume of black-and-white drawings Dylan had executed between 1989 and 1992, in the first years of his Never Ending Tour, which brought him across the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. (He is still touring today, performing 80 to 100 concerts a year and as a consequence Dylan was not in Chemnitz, formerly known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, for the exhibition opening, but on stage in Chicago). Nössinger was so impressed by the quality of his drawings that she got in touch with Dylan. That flattered the reclusive superstar so much that he immediately agreed to have the works shown at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz.

Bob Dylan, Man on a Bridge, 2007
© 2007 Bob Dylan, courtesy Black Buffalo collection

He had his pencil and charcoal sketches digitally transferred to laid paper and subsequently colored them. He did several variations of some of his motifs – street scenes, portraits of chance acquaintanceships, landscapes, interiors – experimenting with the coloration or adding new figures. The result was dynamic cover versions of his drawings – similar to what he has done for years with his old songs, which he continually reinterprets in different ways when he plays them live. In just a few months 322 sheets emerged, of which 170 are on view in the The Drawn Blank Series.

Bob Dylan, Woman in Red Lion Pub, 2007
© 2007 Bob Dylan, courtesy Black Buffalo collection

The expressive drawings executed on tour fit in perfectly with the Kunstsammlungen's exhibition program, which includes important solo shows of works by classic artists such as Kirchner and Feininger, as well as contemporary artists like Baselitz, to which the museum devoted an entire room. The Dylan presentation follows the Baselitz show, and is on exhibit until the beginning of February. In his drawings, the 66-year-old singer recorded things that caught his eye on tour. Most of the motifs are everyday ones: a side street in Chicago, feet in flip flops, a woman sitting at the counter in a bar, a bearded man wearing a bright blue coat whom Dylan encountered on a bridge, and time and again views from the windows of hotels – in Venice, in Reno, in Mexico. From balconies, through portholes or grilled windows, the musician constantly sees new things at the places where he stays for a few days. Dylan remains a distanced observer, often capturing the activity from an elevated position. He doesn't participate in what is going on in front of him.

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