The recent Tim Nye-curated “Primary Atmospheres” show at David Zwirner was something of a welcome resurrection for a group of California Minimalists known as “Light and Space” artists. So welcome, in fact, that many of the artists—James Turrell, Robert Irwin, John McCracken—are already beloved, institutionally remembered figures, their mythos only amplified by the generally negligent care of New York exhibition spaces. One artist curiously devoid of a personal mythology is Laddie John Dill (b. Long Beach, CA, 1943), whose work in the show, a series of glass panels arranged in sand and lit from below by fluorescents, was consistently called the exhibition’s Smithson. Dill’s work, which he calles “light sentences,” combines a mysterious treatment of light with natural and sometimes esoteric materials. Nye has given Dill a solo show, “Contained Radiance,” at his own gallery.
Here’re the facts about Dill:
1. Dill’s father was a lens designer, which the artist cites as a major influence of his scientific and analytical approach to materials.
2. Dill graduated from Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, in 1968 with a BFA degree. After graduating, Dill worked as a printing apprentice with Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. He stayed with Johns when he came to New York in the 1970s, then moved in with Rauschenberg in his studio apartment on Lafayette Street.
3. When the Sonnabends were in Los Angeles for a Warhol show, Rauschenberg and Rosamund Felsen convinced them to stop by and see Dill’s work. It was a long shot, and Dill almost disassembled the large sand piece to move it to San Francisco, but decided to take the risk, and got his first one-man exhibition in 1971 at the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery in New York.
4. His studio in Venice, California (near those of his friends Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode) is divided into two parts, one in which he makes pieces, and the other that he uses just to experiment. He once filled a room in his studio with 10,000 pounds of silica sand to use in his three dimensional work.
5. The cement and glass construction above Frasier’s (of the TV show Frasier) fireplace is by Laddie John Dill.
CONTAINED RADIANCE IS ON VIEW THROUGH FEBURARY 20. NYEHAUS IS LOCATED AT 358 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK. IMAGE: UNTITLED, 1969/2010. PHOTO BY CATHY CARVER, COURTESY DAVID ZWIRNER NEW YORK.