Los Angeles

William Dole

University of California at Santa Barbara

The unusual unity of William Dole’s retrospective exhibition is visual evidence of his impeccable selectivity and the continuity of his vision. Dole is a master of symmetry, balance and structure and to these he brings a rare and often lively sense of color that builds his beautiful collages to nearly perfect things. In his controlled and sensitive work Dole has not succumbed to the demands of the market place for large, noisy, shocking pictures, but in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he is in great demand and is represented in many of the significant collections of this country and Europe.

Dole, in referring to his work, says “I am concerned with, and perhaps obsessed by, the visage of the external world, which I believe to be chaotic. I attempt in each painting separately, to make a structural entity which resolves this chaos with precision and poetry. My response is usually to simple things, to the meaning of the pattern and gesture. Objects not usually considered beautiful in the traditional sense are often the ones which interest me most. Very ordinary objects or groups of objects force themselves into my consciousness; they suddenly become a new thing.”

In many retrospective shows there are a few and often many paintings that intrude and jar upon each other, or even an entire period of an artist’s work which seems isolated and apart, the early periods generally filled with eclectic experimentation. Not so with Dole. His work has a cohesion and logical development that builds gradually as his skill and knowledge grow and evolve. The exhibit is hung chronologically. The early paintings are romantic references to real objects developed in an imagined way rather than an observed way. As you progress there is less and less reference to nature and they become completely abstract.

In his collages, which he refers to as a working process rather than a category, Dole finds an endless challenge in use of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, space and line. In working with collage Dole feels he has been freed to draw strictly as an independent art form and no longer uses drawing as a preparation for painting or collage. His drawings are a thing apart, they are perceptive refinements of observation and vision, and his ability to transfer this clarity of vision results in poetic direct drawings. Never dull or repetitious, he is full of artistic surprises. The high degree of detail, the connections and sequences, the elegant small embellishments and accents force the viewer into the same kind of close, quiet observation that Dole commits himself to in the creation of his pictures.

“Signs for Winter,” 1961 is a refined, perfectly balanced, restrained composition, understated with muted colors, whereas in “Tower of Babel, Construction Detail,” 1962, and “Tower of Babel, Phase of Construction,” 1962, he builds his collage into powerful ascending structural units which amplify the media to a crescendo of color, shape and mass. In the latest collage “Antique,” 1963, he has composed a memento of the past in which he subordinates the symbolic scraps of paper to create a mood of elegance, quiet repose and serenity.

Harriette Von Breton