House of Words

Jim Dine and the pavilion in the inner courtyard

In the middle of the art quarter, and adjacent to the Kunsthaus, is the studio of US artist Jim Dine. Today he lives and works mainly in New York. In addition, he has also had studios in Paris and Göttingen for years, where he collects inspiration and works several times a year. As a result of Dine’s special connection to Göttingen, which is not only due to his life-long collaboration with the art publisher, Steidl, he has gifted the town his site-specific installation “Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)”. A pavilion – the House of Words – was built especially for this work of art, which is located in the generously landscaped courtyard of the Kunsthaus.

The artist Jim Dine

Jim Dine (*1935 in Cincinnati, Ohio) graduated from Ohio University in 1957 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and has since become one of the most prominent representatives of contemporary American art. Dine’s unprecedented career spans sixty years. His works are shown in numerous private and public collections. Since the late 50s when he and Claes Oldenburg, among others, took everyday items out of their context and displayed them in a new light, Jim Dine has been assigned to the Pop Art scene despite not seeing himself as its representative. Besides painting, graphics and sculpture, he occupies himself with lyrics, and since the 1990s also photography. He works in artistic phases, which are always characterized by a recurring theme. The heart motif and the men’s bathrobe are the two most-renowned motifs, through which he abstractly portrays himself and investigates varying facets of his personality. The works with the subject “heart” are occupied by the basic question of humanity and, at the same time, are reflexions of the artist’s self. In addition, literature and lyrics have played from the very beginning an important role in Jim Dine’s artistic accomplishments, and the combination of font and image occurs often in his work, for example in the installation in the inner courtyard of the Kunsthaus.

The “House of Words” can be visited as part of special guided tours (see programme) with appropriate registration.

The site-specific installation “Poet Singing (The Flowering Sheets)”

The installation consists of five larger than life wooden sculptures – based on antique Greek Sirens – that surround an enormous shoulder-less plaster bust: the artist’s self-portrait. The group of sculptures is built in the pavilion, which houses a single room of which its walls are coated in words handwritten using charcoal and white chalk. The installation was inspired by the group of sculptures “Orpheus with Two Sirens” – two Greek terracotta figures with and without harp (300-100 B.C.) and an Orpheus figure in the Getty collection in Malibu / LA, in which Dine’s installation was first seen. The five wooden sculptures are carved from American oak and are 2.5 m tall; the height of the plaster bust is approximately 2 m. Dine changed the positions of certain parts of the body for example the angle of a head, so the two originals comprise five varying modifications. The artist painted the wooden sculptures and afterwards brushed off the paint, similar to the handwritten prose on the walls. Through circular movements, the charcoal and chalk words were brushed away and then sharpened by the new, overriding text; a poem by the artist that not only tries to capture fragments of his inner and private thoughts and romantic yearning, but is also a journey through time and space.