Bob Dylan’s ‘visual journal’ through photography archives New York

September 29, 2011

Bob Dylan’s latest exhibition, “The Asia Series,” which opened on the 20th September at the Gagosian Gallery NY, has sparked debate over the artist’s apparent appropriation and borrowing of other sources, the New York Times reports.

The exhibition, which includes 18 large paintings, is described in a press release by the gallery as; “a visual journal” of the artist’s travels “in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea,” through “firsthand depictions of people, street scenes, architecture and landscape.” It seems that many of the works were actually copied from existing sources.

Discussions on the Bob Dylan fan website, Expecting Rain revealed that many of the exhibited images were borrowed from well-known photographs such as by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Léon Busy, while another fan website writes that Dylan had exactly repliacted a photograph taken by Dmitri Kessel. Out of the 18 artworks on display six are claimed to be taken directly from Okinawa Soba’s Flickr photostream, “Soba Archive”.

A press representative for the Gagosian Gallery recently responded in a statement to the New York Times: “While the composition of some of Bob Dylan’s paintings is based on a variety of sources, including archival, historic images, the paintings’ vibrancy and freshness come from the colors and textures found in everyday scenes he observed during his travels.”

It is not the first time that Dylan has drawn scrunity over his source material; in 2006 it was shown that lyrics on Dylan’s album “Modern Times” closely resembled the poems of Henry Timrod, nor is it the first time the Gagosian Gallery has experienced controversy over copyright laws – recently French photographer Patrick Cariou won a lawsuit against Richard Prince for using his photographs without permission.

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