New York

Laddie John Dill

Sonnabend Gallery

Laddie John Dill’s first one-man show of sculpture at Sonnabend suffers from finesse. It includes three light pieces on the wall and two works on the floor that use sand, light and glass. Dill started as a painter and he is still preoccupied with qualities associated with painting. He learned about artificial light sources when lighting his earlier paintings and has now come up with argon gas tubes whose differently coated sections create multicolored bands of light. He uses them in simple wall pieces intended as straight color trips. The color is more refined and delicate than any I’ve seen before. Dill obtains soft, nonfluorescent mauves, light blues and clear yellows, as well as gem-deep colors and more conventional fluorescent hues. The look is low-key and smooth, like tasteful wall jewelry.

The light pieces are the most obvious outcropping of his interest in color and pattern. Other pieces in the show move out into three-dimensional space, but maintain a curious noncorporeality, a two-dimensional impact. They have the illusiveness of a film image. This impression is particularly strong in the elaborate glass, sand and light piece in Sonnabend’s front room. Faint half daylight and minimal interior lighting in the room create dusk—the time when objects lose their substance. There are 700 pounds of sand and four pieces of heavy plate glass in the piece, but it generates no sense of weight. Instead complex two-dimensional patterns are created. Reflected and actual straight edges of glass intermingle above the curved, ribbon bands of sand. The patterns change and flow as you move around the piece. Broken blue lines extend to an invisible convergence point in space on one side of the piece, while from the other side they form phantom right angles. Small pieces of glass leaning against the larger plate are lighted on their edges by an argon tube buried in the sand beneath. The work’s complicated illusions are the product of careful control. In spite of the apparent informality of materials, the artist worked everything out beforehand with scale models in his studio. The result is sophisticated, and ephemeral.

Kasha Linville