(American, b. 1943)
A central figure in the California Light and Space movement, Laddie John Dill has been crafting light and earthy materials like concrete, glass, sand, and metal into luminous sculptures, wall pieces, and installations since the 1970s. Referring to his choice of materials, Dill explains, “I was influenced by [Robert] Rauschenberg, Keith Sonnier, Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Irwin, who were working with earth materials, light, and space as an alternative to easel painting.” Among his most celebrated works is an untitled installation from 1971, for which Dill filled a gallery with mounds of pale sand, topped with precisely arranged glass panels illuminated by the soft, green glow of argon lighting set just beneath the surface. When he does use canvas, he paints with pigments derived from cement and natural oxides.
I think my own personal methodology perhaps started around 1970 and since then it's been an evolutionary process of one piece leading me to the next, the previous piece lending enough information to go on to make the next piece. I progress relatively slowly and I don't jump into another radical form or anything like that, but if you look at the work over a period of years, you can see the progression from working with pure light sources and natural materials in their natural state, like sand, up until relatively geometric architecturally based forms dealing with cement and plate glass.
The technical aspect of my work is uniquely mine. Some artists are able to manipulate gouache or oil paint or work with video or dance. My interest lies in the use of systems of materials.
Sometimes I'll be explaining my work and I'll lapse into these long technical dissertations. I don't think of it that way, but people come back to me and say, "Your work is so technical", but it isn't to me. My father was a lens designer, a scientist. He helped me with some of my early work when I was a teenager, and the idea of analysis and a scientific approach comes quite naturally to me, but I like to use it in a creative sense.
I insist on a fairly large studio because I have one area of the studio where I'm taking pieces and another area which is purely experimental. It enables me to separate the ideas of making art and just experimenting with materials and seeing what relationships I can get between myself and the materials.
I have a tendency to think out mentally and never physically make them. That's exciting to me, working out a game plan. I also paint, and I think the reason I paint is just pure expression, to counterbalance the more scientific side of the work.
I come from a generation where the idea for a sculpture was completed before the execution. But what I'm trying to do is incorporate an expressionistic methodology in relationship to that. A classic example would be an early piece that I did with sand and glass. The glass was set up in a very highly complex geometric pattern, simple in its arrangement but complex in its finality - the way the light went through it. The whole piece was suspended in seven tons of sand that was arbitrarily spread out, but the sand was very important to the structure of the piece. It actually was the substance that held the piece together. And so as arbitrarily as these mounds appeared, they were very integral to the structure of this architectural form.
My present work reflects this approach. There is a strong geometric feeling and at the same time, an emotional or expressionistic edge that's introduced.
To explain the physicalities of my paintings, I will describe the construction of one in outline form. The construction is essentially process work. The phenomena of the materials (described below) are instrumental in decision- making. Beyond the description of these phenomena, the making of aesthetic decisions will not be discussed.
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1943 - Born in Long Beach, California
1964 – 1968 - Attended Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, California
1975 - National endowment for the Arts, Artists Fellowshi
1979 - John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
1982 - National Endowment for the Arts, Artists Fellowship
1983 - California Arts Council, Art in Public Buildings Programs Grant
1971 - Sonnabend Gallery, New York
- Pasadena art Museum, California
- Portland State University art Gallery, Oregon
1972 - Morgan Gallery, Shawnee Mission, Kansas
- Sonnabend Gallery, New York
1973 - Mizuno Gallery, Los Angeles
1974 - James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
1975 - Douglas Drake Gallery, Kansas City
- James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
1990 - Old City Hall Gallery. “Art in Public Buildings, 1978-1989.” Redding, California.
- Phoenix Art Museum. Contemporary Forum. Ianuzzi Gallery.
1991 - Sharon Truax Fine Art/ Art Store Gallery. “ Vessels.”San Francisco, CA.
- Riverside Art Museum.” One over one: Contemporary Riverside, CA.
1992 - Stremmel Gallery ‘‘Small Works”., Reno , Nevada.
- U S West Newvector Group “Prints from Pilchuck and Centrum”
Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA
Ceder-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Chicago Art Institute
Caldwell Museum, Humbolt, TN
Aerotech, San Diego
American Embassy, Helsinki, Finland
American Embassy, Ankara, Turkey
The Arboretum, Santa Monica