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Roving Rube

Outdoor Art

May 31, 2003

Jim Dine's "Ape & Cat (at the Dance)", Battery Park City










Rube's Notes: Perhaps what you see in a work of art really does say more about you than the art: the Rube thought of the cat here as calculating and duplicitous, and the ape as stupid and easily misled through greed. He also considered the ape's arm being half hacked-off as not being a good sign.

Note also in Fig. 2 the Ape's left leg, which appears almost severed by a violent blow from behind. Also that the artist has left chips from the sculpting lying on the pedestal, suggesting the violence of the creative act, as well as that the Ape is walking in his bare feet on an unclean floor.

But here is Battery Park City's interpretation of the work:

Although they do not have human features, Jim Dine´s Ape & Cat (At the Dance) exude the sort of civility and tenderness to which many urbanites aspire. At first encounter, they look like a couple who have waltzed out onto a lawn after a genteel garden party. Made of cast bronze, the figures are at once amusing, allegorical, and unabashedly romantic : she, the cat, with her flowing dress and contented expression; he, the ape, leading the dance, nuzzling her attentively. The work derives from a series of drawings and sculptures Dine completed in the early 1990s that follow the relationship of this unlikely but adoring couple.

As we have seen before with his Venus de Milo, Dine based this work on a small porcelain figurine he had acquired. This ultimately led to a "collaboration" on a book with Henry James:

This publication came about by a remarkable coincidence. The artist Jim Dine had been inspired by a small porcelain figurine of a cat and monkey in human clothes. He enlarged and reinvented the couple for a major series of sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Friends of the artist and the publisher alerted them to a story by Henry James from 1873 that employed the same figurine for different ironic purposes. Dine photographed his clay maquette and bronzes, and Hoyem arranged eighteen of the pictures as a narrative sequence, in which the romance of the two animals movingly evokes the human condition. The philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto wrote an essay on the James story and the Dine works. The book and the album of intaglio prints are enclosed in a box displaying a sculpture specially created by Dine for this edition.

(Arion Press description of "Ape & Cat by Jim Dine, and, The Madonna of the Future by Henry James, with art by Jim Dine".

The book costs $3,500.













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