In 1969, Laddie John Dill began making “Light Sentences:” colored sections of glass tubing filled with gases of varying intensities, illuminated by gas and ignited by electricity. Argon, neon, helium, xenon, and mercury infinitely expand the artist’s palette. In past displays of these works, they were affixed to the wall with industrial hardware, the wiring proudly displayed as an artifact of process, with their “contained radiance” splashing the wall surrounding the work with distorted geometries.
In the current installation at Nyehaus, the Sentences are incased in individual containers and recessed in to the wall. The compressed space intensifies and contains the light like a firefly cupped in one’s hands. It took addition to create the sense of subtraction. Dill has also been creating landscapes from sand, light and glass since the late 60s. When the sheets of glass make contact with gas-illuminated tubes hidden beneath, the sand lights the edges of the glass, creating a fiber optic luminance. For his current show at Nyehaus, Dill has created dioramas: stand alone miniature sculptures of what could easily be imagined as large-scale installations. The centerpiece is a work that is a functioning fountain, a crucial element in bringing the atmospheres of Southern California to New York City. A central figure in the California Light and Space movement, Laddie John Dill has been crafting light and earthy materials like concrete, glass, sand, and metal into luminous sculptures, wall pieces, and installations since the late 1960s. Referring to his choice of materials, Dill explains: “I was influenced by [Robert] Rauschenberg, Keith Sonnier, Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Irwin, who were working with earth materials, light, and space as an alternative to easel painting.” Among his most celebrated works is an untitled installation from 1971, for which Dill filled a gallery with mounds of pale sand, topped with precisely arranged glass panels illuminated by the soft, green glow of argon lighting set just beneath the surface.