Laddie John Dill
Curator and artist Laddie John Dill is renowned for his creative crafting of light and material. But a recent show afforded him the chance to tip his hat to his more human influences.
For Laddie John Dill, nepotism shouldn’t be frowned upon. In fact. it’s the uniting theme of his most recent undertaking, a show he co-curated at Los Angeles’ LA Contemporary gallery entitled—simply enough—Nepotism. “Nepotism to me is the dictionary translation of it,” says the Venice, California-based artist. “It means using people that I’m acquainted with, friends, people that are close to me. People that I’ve known for many years—close friends and close family.”
Dill’s outright embracing of the practice for his exhibition shouldn’t be disapproved of, however. Rather, it should be viewed as Dill’s humble (tongue-in-cheek, shall we say?) recognition of some of the accomplished brethren who have influenced and inspired him over the course of his illustrious career: names like Charles Arnoldi, Peter Alexander, Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, and Ann Thornycroft, to name a few of the sixteen artists on Nepotism’s star-studded roster.
It was names like these that helped transform the bright-eyed neophyte artist into the full-fledged art master that he is today. “I’ve been very lucky over the course of my career, which started when I was really young,” says Dill, referring to the mentorship provided to him by the likes of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein when he was a young L.A. transplant on the New York scene of the 1960s and 70s. Over the last 30 years, Dill has translated these fortuitous beginnings into a robust career, replete with dozens of gallery and museum exhibitions.
The bulk of his work involves the interaction of highly industrial, man-made materials and those of natural origin. “I use a lot of water in the process of making the work as well,” says Dill. This makes sense: Dill was born in Long Beach and attended Santa Monica High School, which afforded him ample opportunity throughout his life to take up surfing and diving.
His abstract compositions of wood, metal, and other somewhat unconventional media blur the line between sculpture and painting in that they are often at once wall-mounted and three-dimensional. As he puts it, “I think like a painter but work like a sculptor.”
And, though Dill is assertive in his work’s earthly and industrial influences, when it comes down to it, his art is also about the people in his life who have inspired him to never rest on his laurels. “They’ve [the artists featured in Nepotism] always been an inspiration for me because one thing we all have in common is we’re all workaholics,” the artist quips. “We get up really early in the morning and just start working.”
Nepotismwas a reflection of this nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic of both Dill and his contemporaries, corroborates Hoojung Lee, the other curator of the LA Contemporary show. “Each artist has risen victorious after confronting the challenges inherent within the art world and flourishes as a result of the tremendous precision found in their approach,” she says.