An afternoon with Laddie John Dill might include the following: a lesson in chemistry, a tutorial about electricity, a possible set of instructions for glassblowing, a discussion about the LA art world—past, present and future—and of course several sights for sore eyes. An integral member of the artistic movement known as “Light and Space,” Laddie started working with neon, argon and sand in the late 60s and early 70s. Recently Dill’s captivating “light sentences,” as he calls them, have garnered a new wave of international attention.
The neon works possess a rare kind of captivating quality that engages without spectacle or gimmick. They are otherworldly, even scientific, but they are also earthly, spiritual, and evoke a meditative feeling. Their color is intense, mesmerizing and completely engrossing. A new group of works involves a similar interest in neon and color, but Laddie has been experimenting with bending and shaping the glass tubing. Walking into his studio now, experiencing the new works all in a row, feels like walking into a cross between a mad scientist’s lair and some sort of futuristic space station. Still maintaining the beauty and vivid color of the older neon the new forms are however, more gestural, like 3D drawings. There is a sense of movement to them that more fully captures the life of the neon, argon and other gases the works depend on. These pieces will be in a show in New York in early May.
During my visit Laddie jokingly refers to himself as a dinosaur, but really his work is more relevant now than ever. Post-Pacific Standard Time a whole new generation understands how Laddie’s work, aesthetic and practice (along with that of some of his contemporaries), really defined and positioned the Los Angeles art world today. Busy as ever with a demanding installation and exhibition schedule Laddie still seems completely interested in new material, experimentation and a willingness to support his peers. The afternoon I saw him we went over to see Judith Barry’s show at Rosamund Felson Gallery in Santa Monica. That combination of dedication to his practice and his fellow artists are what have made Laddie such a pivotal figure within the Los Angeles art scene and what will continue to make him an important character. Having just returned from a show in Paris at Dominique Fiat Gallery, Laddie will soon take his new works to New York for a solo show, and then head back to Europe for a travelling show put on by the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.