(American, b. 1943)
Laddie John Dill, a Los Angeles artist, had his first solo exhibition in New York City with Illeanna Sonnabend Gallery in 1971 when Dill was 27 years old. He was one of the first Los Angeles artists to exhibit “light and space” work in New York. He exhibited the “Light Sentences” and “Light Plains” in institutions across the United States and globally, and has enjoyed a resurgence of interest in these pieces in the last decade as well, including a recent acquisition of a “Light Plains” sculpture by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Dill has been crafting light and earthy materials like concrete, glass, sand, and metal into luminous sculptures, wall pieces, and installations since the 1970s.
Noted art critic and writer for the New York Times, Ken Johnson, has stated:
“At the end of the 1960s the West Coast Light and Space artist Laddie John Dill began producing electric light works out of custom-made, blown-glass tubes in a lush palette of jewel-bright colors… Some are made of many short pieces, some of longer parts and fewer colors. They glow beautifully like strings of illuminated glass beads. Mr. Dill called these works “Light Sentences,” likening the segments of color to words grouped in phrases and sentences. This suggests that light itself could be a transcendental language. But the effect of these works in concert is less verbal and more like trippy visual chamber music.”
Laddie John Dill was born in Long Beach, CA in 1943. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1968 with a BFA. After graduating, Dill became a printing apprentice and worked closely with established artists, like Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns. Laddie John Dill’s work is in the permanent collections of national and international institutions such as Museum of Modern Art, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, CA; San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art, CA; High Museum, GA; The Phillips Collection, DC; Chicago Art Institute, IL; Smithsonian, DC; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Pio Monte della Misericordia, Italy; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA; and Museo Jumex, Mexico. Laddie is the recipient of two National Endowment grants: one for sculpture and one for painting, and a Guggenheim Fellowship for painting. He has also taught extensively at UCLA, UC Irvine, Art Center in Pasadena, and lectured in numerous universities and art institutions across the United States. He currently lives and works in Venice, CA where he maintains a studio.
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.
For full resume, view PDF below
1943 - Born in Long Beach, California
1964 – 1968 - Attended Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, California
1975 - National endowment for the Arts, Artists Fellowship
1979 - John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
1982 - National Endowment for the Arts, Artists Fellowship
1983 - California Arts Council, Art in Public Buildings Programs Grant
Selected Public Collections
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Louisiana Museum, Denmark
Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Paulo, Brazil
Pio Monte della Misericordia, Napoli, Italy
Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA
Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID
Caldwell Museum, Humboldt, TN
Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Frankel Foundation, Troy, MI
Frederick Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu, CA
Greenville County Museum, SC
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA
Lancaster Museum of Contemporary Art, Lancaster, CA
Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Museum of Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI
Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA
Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA
Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ
Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC
UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
For a complete list of exhibitions, view PDF below