— Art in Common

Jim Dine, Ape & Cat (at the Dance), 1993

Yeah, really, it’s an ape and a cat. Dine actually made quite a lot of ape-plus-cat work in the 1990s, bronzes and drawings and photogravures; they seem happy together. Considering Dine’s more recent move toward Pinocchio, perhaps we should be grateful that we get some adorable animals boogying in the starlight, but in a city so overloaded with maudlin or pointless figurative sculpture one hopes from more for our bigger guns.

I’m not a reflexive Dine hater, but he’s not easy to defend these days: he seems to be a holdover from a more naive moment, when Pop was just pop, rather than an unimpeachably major artistic movement. Compared to Warhol and Lichtenstein, compared even to the underrated Robert Indiana, Dine cuts a less ambitious, more decorative figure – think of his pair of Venus de Milos up by MoMA, on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 53rd. Which is not a problem in itself; the problem is that the lesser ambition goes along with a terrifyingly prolific output, at a scale I would want to call industrial if artists working in very different modes hadn’t made that an inapplicable term. It’s easy to forget that back in the day Dine was knee-deep in the New York scene: his 1960s paintings and assemblages have something compelling about them, and even before that he created some of the very first Happenings, such as The Smiling Worker (1959) and Car Crash (1960). They were the sort of aggressive performances you’d have to go to the Volksbühne for these days, and for me they constituted one of the nicest discoveries of Pace’s recent Happenings exhibition – a reminder if one were needed that nothing in New York lasts.

The sculpture lies in Robert F. Wagner Park, down at the Battery.