JEAN DUBUFFET   Vache aux Deux Arbres   July 1943  
Oil on paper   9-3/4" x 6-1/2" (25 x 16.5 cm)   
© 2015, Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Landscape paintings are paradoxical. They do not depict us, but they are about us. They show us how we see the world—and call into question what that perception says about our cultures, our emotions, and our ideas about images themselves. 

In a unique twist on landscape painting, Dubuffet refigures the French countryside into avant-garde art brut in Vache aux Deux Arbres. 

During the month of July 1943, Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) and his wife Lili left Paris for a bicycling tour of the French countryside. The young artist stopped frequently along the way, capturing what he saw with a child’s gouache paint set and an album of artist’s paper. He later adapted much of this sketch series into larger works for his shocking debut exhibition at Galerie René Drouin, Paris in 1944. This painting, from that bicycle trip sketchbook, shows a cow grazing in front of two trees.

Dubuffet transforms the idyllic scene in a revolutionary way. The work deliberately lacks scale. The cow looks at least half as tall as the trees, and all of the objects seem to float around rather than being grounded in perspectival space. Simplified and flattened, the image subjects, while they resemble real elements of a landscape, seem to be symbolic: Dubuffet shows us the idea of a cow, trees, and a field rather than visual reproductions of those things, employing thick outlines and simple coloration to striking and unusual effect. Dubuffet, inspired by Jean Fautrier’s rudimentary flatness, undoes the idealization of the European landscape. The bright green and blue hues express the joy of a summer day, while the deliberately crude figuration of the countryside is one of the earliest examples of what would become Dubuffet’s signature style, art brut.

Not as childlike as it appears, Dubuffet’s art brut was in fact a bold, complex political protest, an atavistic response to the cruelty of WWII. Dubuffet believed the legitimacy of academic realism (a style he mastered at an early age) had been shattered by the war, that art had to be reinvented along with the universe it depicted. He and others—including Paul Klee and Max Ernst—turned to the art of the mentally ill for inspiration. A foray into the aesthetic these artists would create, Vache aux Deux Arbres gives us a fascinating glimpse at the psychology of a painter in transition from academic youth to avant-garde maturity, and at the roots of post-war art.

Vache aux Deux Arbres is part of our current exhibition Important Works on Paper.

Visit to see available works by the artist.


John Cage in the Crown Point Press studio, 1987.
Photo by Kathan Brown
John Cage (1912 –1992) was an influential American composer and artist known primarily for his cutting-edge experimental music. Cage began producing visual art in the late 1970s, after arthritis put an unfortunate end to his musical performances. In 1978, Cage set out to make a number of works with Crown Point Press in Oakland, CA. 

Masterful early examples of the Crown Point etchings, R3 (Where R = Ryoanji) and (R3) (Where R = Ryoanji) visually capture the same cerebral blend of randomness and mathematical construction we can hear in Cage’s music. Elegantly minimal, maximally tonal, the Ryoanji etchings also show Zen Buddhism’s influence on Cage’s process-based style. Inspired by the kare-sansui Zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji, in Kyoto, Cage repeatedly placed fifteen stones on an etching plate and traced them in pencil. He positioned the rocks one at a time, using his ‘chance operations’ method, a random results-generator he derived from coin-flipping procedures outlined in the Chinese divination book I Ching

R3 refers to 153, meaning that Cage created 15 x 15 x 15 traces, individually placing and outlining each of the stones 225 times, totalling 3,375 traces—packed onto just one 7” x 21-1/2” etching plate. This formula, brilliant as it is obsessive, produces classic Cagean results: conceptual and deceptively effortless. The Ryoanji series in particular is also more fluid and gestural than some of Cage's earlier work, marking the transition into the final phase of his career, when he gave himself greater aesthetic control over his chance-made artwork.

JOHN CAGE   (R3) (Where R=Ryoanji) and R3 (Where R=Ryoanji)  1983
Etchings on paper, each  17-5/16" x 13-7/8" (44 x 35.4 cm)  
 © 2015, John Cage



June 25 - August 28, 2015
Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art is pleased to present Important Works on Paperfeaturing notable examples of Abstraction, Minimalism, Pop, and Photorealism.
The exhibition covers a vast array of expression upon one of the most essential, raw mediums: paper. This unforgiving surface honestly reveals the artist’s expertise in a unique way.
Important Works on Paper offers a variety of visual language including Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic and dramatic landscapes, Sam Francis’ vibrant explosions of color, Ralph Goings’ expertly painted reflections of light, and Jean Dubuffet’s rudimentary yet striking figuration.
The exhibition is comprised of paintings, drawings, monotypes, and editioned works. A wide range of mediums is featured including oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, glitter, charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, and collage.
On view are works by Wayne Thiebaud, Sam Francis, Jim Dine, Robert Motherwell, John Cage, Sam Messenger, Jean Dubuffet, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Paul Jenkins, Ralph Goings, Robert Bechtle, John Salt, Charles Bell, Randy Dudley, Elizabeth Patterson, and John Baeder.
Important Works on Paper will be on exhibit through August 28, 2015.
On the homepage: Wayne Thiebaud – Drawing of San Francisco, David Hockney – Road to Palm Springs, Jean Dubuffet – Vache aux Deux Arbres, and Sam Francis – Untitled (SF63-006).
Artists Include: Ralph Goings, Jean Dubuffet, David Hockney, Jim Dine, Sam Francis, Wayne Thiebaud, and Robert Bechtle
David Hockney - Road to Palm Springs

Jim Dine - Tricky Teeth

From Left to Right:
Ralph Goings – Blueberry Pie
Jean Dubuffet – Vache aux deux Arbres
Ralph Goings – Napkin Box and Creamer
Wayne Thiebaud – Mountain Cloud
Sam Francis – Untitled (SF63-006)
Charles Bell - Tinker Toys and Clown

Roy Lichtenstein - View from the Window 

From Left to Right:
Howard Hodgkin - La Plume de ma Tante
Jim Dine - Hope
Sam Francis - Untitled (SFM78-171; SFM78-050)

Jim Dine - Hope

Howard Hodgkin - La Plume de ma Tante

Sam Francis - Untitled (SFM78-171; SFM78-050)

Robert Motherwell - Untitled (P77-3122)

Sam Francis - Untitled (SFM81-144)

John Cage - (R3) (Where R=Ryoanji); R3 (Where R=Ryoanji)

Randy Dudley - Desert Tramline

Sam Francis - Untitled (SF74-860; SF76-1105A)

Elizabeth Patterson - Sepulveda Blvd., 5PM

Sam Messenger - Veil from Ketos

Robert Motherwell - Untitled (Phoenician Red) (M-76-2821)

John Baeder Installed
John Baeder - Shofar
John Baeder - Jim's Diner


Jim Dine: A Retrospective brings together important works from key periods in the artist’s career. Comprised not only of paintings and monumental sculpture, but also unique works on paper as well as dynamic prints, the exhibition charts Dine’s energetic exploration across a wide array of mediums. Beginning with his early works often associated with the Pop Art movement, and tracing his work to the present, these pieces exhibit Dine’s iconic visual vocabulary including hearts, robes, tools, plants, and Venus de Milo. Additionally, recent abstract works represent an exciting new expression of Dine’s creative capacities.


After moving from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1958, Dine quickly established himself in the post-war New York art scene, first with the Happenings movement at the encouragement of mentor Allan Kaprow, and later—tangentially—with the Pop Art movement. Although Dine draws upon images of popular culture similar to those consumed by Pop artists, his use of these objects does not serve the same impassive, ironic sensibility. Instead, Dine’s repetition of a concise visual lexicon with his signature expressionist style continues to nuance once-common forms with personal meaning.


The works included in this exhibition not only demonstrate Dine’s creativity across mediums but also within a given discipline. Dine’s paintings on canvas, panel, and paper often incorporate materials such as charcoal, sand, and collaged elements to depict his iconic forms.
After painting his first heart in 1966, the symbol became a central theme in Dine’s work. A self-described romantic artist, Dine sees the heart for its obvious connection to the strong emotions of love, but also values it as a geometric framework with which he can explore dynamic color relationships and textures. Gossip (1970-71) incorporates collage elements characteristic of some of Dine’s earliest works on paper along with cutout hearts and hand-applied coloring. The resulting work plays positive and negative space against one another to define the shape of the heart amongst evocative textual elements set within a matrix of numbers, which suggest but elude meaning. WhileGossip examines the spatial and linguistic capacities of the heart icon, Tricky Teeth (1970-71) uses the form to address color relationships. Here, a flat, black heart is fixed within a pulsating passage of vibrant colors. While the punched lettering of the title is representative of Dine’s penchant for typographic exploration in his early works, the field of color anticipates some of his most recent abstractions.
In addition to color and form, the heart also allows Dine to explore texture. Brought together in this exhibition, the scraped-smooth surface of Hearts in the Meadow (1970) offers a tactile contrast to Dine’s more recent pairing of hearts entitled And the Cherry Trees (2014). With this painterly work, Dine continues to reinvent the form. The artist’s assertive brushwork is heightened by a rich and grainy texture built up with the incorporation of charcoal and sand, endowing one of his most iconic images with fresh and exciting energy.
Pepper (A Crime) boasts Dine’s ability to explore new artistic territory while maintaining his authorial visual style. In this powerful work, Dine’s expressionist energy is freed from geometric form. Colors vibrate against one another in organic, cell-like shapes before blending into dense layers.


In the 1980s, Dine began incorporating the Venus de Milo in his work as a visual link to the great themes and traditions of western art history. To develop his own style, Dine first removed the head from a plaster-cast tourist replica, then worked and re-worked the forms of the body—often incorporating cubist-inspired breasts and altering the stance from a coy contrapposto to a confident, frontal stride.
The life size sculptures in this retrospective, Milano and Napoli, visually attest to Dine’s ability to endow the iconic figure with vastly different significance and emotion through slight variations of form and hand-applied enamel finishing. This contrast is echoed by the works’ titles, which evoke the cultural differences between Northern and Southern Italy.
With Five Colorful Dancers, One Bronze Heart, Dine playfully exaggerates Venus’ posture even further to create a rhythmic repetition of female forms centered on his iconic heart. The hand-applied patina and enamel lend this work an atmospheric quality that links the timeless notions of female beauty and love with Dine’s novel composition.


Like his work in bronze, Dine approaches printmaking as an opportunity to focus his creative energy on small editions of works that are often experimental in technique and finished by hand—rather than reproducing preexisting works in large numbers.
Acting as a masculine counterpart to Milano and Napoli, Dine’s 1995 prints included in this retrospective, Very Picante and Pale Self, contribute a pair of related yet diverse works to his ongoing investigation of the bathrobe as a visual theme. Dine’s first bathrobe image was adapted from a New York Times advertisement in 1964. His subsequent variations on the bathrobe in a variety of mediums have redefined the image as a metaphorical stand-in for the artist. For these two prints, Dine used both relief and intaglio printing to achieve a sandy, smoky texture combined with powerful fields of saturated color. Through the use of 14 individual plates, Dine creates distinct harmonies of color from the contemplative pastels of Pale Self to the buoyant hues in Very Picante.
In addition to hand-applied color, Dine often experiments with combinations of printmaking techniques and implements. With Aldo Behind Me represents Dine’s inexhaustible exploration of the medium. Here, the artist has revisited plates originally made in collaboration with legendary French printmaker Aldo Commelynck and re-worked them using a wide range of techniques including aquatint, etching, drypoint, and mechanical abrasion to depict hand tools and paintbrushes. The result is a visual elegy for Dine’s life-long friendship with the printmaker also known for his work with earlier Modern artists including Picasso and Matisse.
Dine’s restless experimentation with print techniques often blurs the lines between mediums. With It’s A Drawing, It’s A Print, what begins as a multi-color woodblock print is finished with hand-applied charcoal drawing. The Grand Carpet further conflates categories by combining woodcut relief printing and drypoint intaglio on copperplate with single-reproduction monoprinting. The resulting works, although belonging to a small edition, are each unique in their own right. Finally, with The Forest Up North, Dine pushes printmaking to rival the scale and ambition of his paintings by combining a hand-painted heart floating amongst a vast forest of printed trees.


The pieces brought together by this retrospective demonstrate Dine’s continued ability to redefine his personal visual repertoire that has become so iconic, and—perhaps more importantly—to push beyond those forms in exciting new ways. The innovation and experimentation across mediums represented by the exhibition further expand traditional notions of Dine as painter, sculptor, and printmaker.
Jim Dine: A Retrospective will be on exhibit through March 12, 2015
All text and photography is © Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art.