Laddie John Dill

Laddie John Dill, a Los Angeles native, was born in Long Beach and attended Santa Monica High School. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1968. By the time Dill was 28, he was offered his first one-man exhibit at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York.

Dill’s talent and ingenuity have combined to make him a highly regarded national and internationally known contemporary artist. Dill’s list of exhibitions is pages long, with galleries and museums listed from such venues as Seoul, Paris, Nogoya, Japajn and Helsinki, Finland to New York, Kansas City, Seattle, and throughout Northern and Southern California. His work is owned by many private collectors and is included in the permanent collections of more than 25 museums. Even he admits to not knowing exactly how many exhibitions he has done since his first one-man show.

In 1968, while Dill was still in school, he and Chuck Arnoldi formed a small framing business, Acme Framing Company, and the artists engaged in many serious discussions concerning what they considered to be the death of painting.

After graduation from Chouinard, Dill said, I needed a job but I wanted to work where I could further my education as well. As an apprentice printer at Gemini, located in West Hollywood, Dill had the opportunity to work closely with such established artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claus Oldenberg and Roy Lichtenstein.

Dialog between artists of the 1970s resulted in experiments with materials previously not considered traditional art media, such as neon, sticks, wax, cement and the relationship of those materials to each other. It was a good healthy time for experimentation, Dill explains. I was influenced by 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.

Dill began experimenting first with neon and argon tubing, arranging the delicate, gas-filled, glass tubes into wall pieces. I soon became interested in throwing the light against irregular surfaces such as brick walls, etc.

Dill moved on to working three-dimensionally and filled a room in his studio with 10,000 pounds of silica sand. It was there that he mixed light and sand to create pieces which were more like painting than sculpture. It was very much like doing a painting, except that it was on the floor, and I used shovels and brooms instead of a brush.

During the 1970’s Dill also began experimenting with wall pieces using cement in contrast with the smooth surface of glass. Using natural pigments he incorporates, in his work, a wide range of colors from brick reds derived, from iron oxide, coal blacks from black sulphur, yellows and naturally mined cobalt blues. Combinations of these natural pigments create a variety of brilliant but still organic colors.

Dill considers his works, over the years, to be concentric rather than a linear chronology. I never throw anything away, Dill says. When I first went to New York in the early 70’s, I lived with Jasper Johns for a few months. I noticed that he never threw anything away, image wise. He recycled images. Dill continues, My studio always has a range of work from different times so when I’m working on new pieces, that information comes into play. The energy in the older pieces is very different than what I’m doing now, but I don’t want to forget about that particular aspect of my work.

According to Dill, his current wall pieces are a combination of about 16 different processes, each process being fairly short. Carving cement has almost become second nature with me. I carve quickly so that the spontaneity of the gesture is there. There is a lot of energy in these pieces because of the immediacy and there is something magical going on in the ones that work.

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