An exhibition opening in London today showcases prints by Jim Dine that employ Communist-era imagery created by anonymous East German art students and recently discovered by Dine in the shop of a pair of Berlin-based printmakers. "A History of Communism," at Alan Cristea Gallery (Sept. 10-Oct. 7), features an eponymous series of 45 works by the Pop artist that reconsider the echoes of communism by exploiting the chance preservation of some students' lithographic drawings.
The works present imagery Dine has used before, such as saws, hammers, wrenches and other tools, layered over the students' lithographs. Concurrently, the gallery will mount "Jim Dine: Printmaker," featuring 14 works, just a couple of doors down, in its second space (both are in the Mayfair district).
Dine, 79, came across about 100 litho stones, untouched since the time of the former G.D.R, in the printing shop of Sarah Dudley and Ulie Kuhle. Dudley and Kuhle had bought the stones from a formerly socialist art academy that was closing, and planned to reuse them as a cost-saving measure. After printing an edition from the stones, Dudley and Kuhle sent the results from Berlin to Dine's home in Walla Walla, Wash., where the artist has spent two and a half years working with these unusual artifacts.
Many of the prints contained typical art-school imagery, such as nude studies, portraits or animals, while others are more particular to the state, illustrating Moscow's Red Square or socialist rallies. Dine employed his usual practice of layering and reworking to add etched images that Oxford University fellow Gwendolyn Sasse calls "brutal interference" in an exhibition catalogue.
The artist grew up working in his grandfather's hardware store, where he is known to have developed an appreciation for hand tools. His travels to visit family in Eastern Europe allowed him to experience socialism, even if only as a visitor, and seem likely to have influenced his symbolic vocabulary.