Born in Malibu, Laddie John Dill has been living and working in Venice Beach, California since the 1960s. As an apprentice printer for the fledgling Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, he worked closely with Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Albers, and Claes Oldenburg. At the time, Dill himself was creating light pieces with neon and argon, but it was a sand installation that made him famous. Sonnabend Gallery in New York saw the work and gave Dill his first one-man exhibition, launching his national and international career.
Like his friend from the Chouinard Art Institute, Charles Arnoldi, Dill was concerned with “the death of painting.” He looked to artists like Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Irwin who used natural materials in their art. Dill began by throwing light on both rough walls and mounds of silica sand, and gradually hit upon a process of “painting” using organic compounds like iron oxide (red) and sulphur (black) along with metal and cement. His pieces are a combination of sixteen different processes and the resulting abstractions contain a play of surface, color and shape that resemble geological strata. Part wall sculpture, part painting, Dill’s work can be commissioned to fit any location regardless of scale.
Architect Frank Gehry knew Dill’s work in the 1970s and credits the artist’s experimentation with glass, sand, and light in a fine art process as influencing his own architectural experimentation.
Laddie John Dill has won the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1975) and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1982). His work is in over two dozen museums around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.