New York

Kim Dingle, Full Service–Restaurant Mandala, 2012–20, oil on canvas, 48 × 48".

Kim Dingle, Full Service–Restaurant Mandala, 2012–20, oil on canvas, 48 × 48".

Kim Dingle

Sunny and animated, Kim Dingle’s latest series of oil paintings at Andrew Kreps Gallery, titled “Restaurant Mandalas” and produced between 2012 and 2020, exude a sense of casual ease and comfort. Channeling the formal languages of abstraction into open floor plans, seating arrangements, table settings, and serving suggestions, they describe the dimensions and pleasures of dining out (remember when we did that?) and fit the bill as templates for the good life. The idea for these pictures came from a phase in Dingle’s career during which she operated a neighborhood-style café named Fatty’s from her studio in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles—a marathon endeavor she undertook in 2003 and kept going for ten years. Meanwhile, in a back room between shifts cooking, serving, and, as she puts it, functioning as “director of wine and janitorials,” she began this body of work.

The task of operating Fatty’s must have been formidable—the sort of challenge that eats up time for anything else. But that’s not what one sees here. Rather, the paintings offer an idyllic vision of effortless living, with culinary events elevated to iconic status. The lower, larger canvas of her diptych, Purple OttomansRestaurant Mandala, features a lively modular floor plan gridded with seating arrangements, all patterned in lime green and tangerine. The upper register is filled with five large purple lozenges lined up in a row: the titular stools, set out for lounging and looking. In Herb Garden PatioRestaurant Mandala, Dingle utilizes blocks of color in shades of olive and bright yellow, with accents in sky blue and tomato red, to describe an inviting outdoor area fringed with potted aromatic plants and equipped with an open-air bar. The brown and blond vertical stripes in OAKRestaurant Mandala simulate a chic wooden floor, against which four floating black circles, stand-ins for tables, are surrounded by Eames-style chairs. Three renderings of oak leaves—arranged in descending scale above this tableau—compliment the overall clean, natural look. Yet these paintings signify more than desirable spaces for eating, drinking, and socializing—they bespeak the belief that food is the foundation of culture and all things wonderful.

A trio of square canvases offer marvelous bird’s-eye views of scintillating decor and deliciousness. In Full ServiceRestaurant Mandala, a checkerboard pattern is the ground for platters on viridescent tables at which cozy-looking crowds of people chow away, while in Help WantedRestaurant Mandala, groups of plates resembling flying saucers seemingly whir and lift off in formation. They affirm the potential of Dingle’s paintings to portray a type of disengaged subjectivity, like so many outtakes on one’s self, which could be akin to daydreaming. Mechanic’s Lap PoolRestaurant Mandala features a bright-blue monochromatic panel that hovers, seemingly, over an empty outdoor lounge/swimming area. Although it is the most abstract work in the series, it subtly suggests an internalized and ongoing search for self-awareness.

Throughout these paintings, Dingle anchors ontological pursuit with the humble components and core values of everyday life: sharing meals, having fun, and building community. Presented within the context of the pandemic, the work prompted meditation on the experiences we crave and, these days, must continue to live without. As we’ve come to discover, something so basic as breaking bread together within an inviting social setting can actually be fundamental to our sense of well-being and happiness.