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November 16, 2002 - January 11, 2003 at Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica

by Margarita Nieto

Although an apparent dichotomy, the juxtaposition of bronzes and figurative drawings in this exhibition by Guy Dill reveal instead a figurative element subtly hidden within the lines and curves of Dill's sculptures. This, despite the artists's firm association with abstraction and a reputation for working directly on a piece without any preliminary sketches.

In a career dating back to the early '70s, Dill has been an innovator as well as an adventurous explorer of multiple directions in two- and three-dimensional media. From cardboard pieces such as the tension piece placed in the La Jolla Museum of Art in 1970, through glass, wood, steel cable with concrete, stainless steel, aluminum and now welded bronze, each step has been marked by an intuitive and studied understanding of the medium. Henry T. Hopkins, who first focused on Dill as a defining force of the California aesthetic, noted that he developed from an "avant-garde identity, to a deeper involvement with works of less heroic scale and seemingly rooted in the European Formalist or Constructivist tradition."

That shift culminated in 2000, with the Bronze Angel series, composed of interplaying forms of cylinders, spheres, elliptical curves, discs, cones and cubes, a series that Dill continues to explore, as evidenced by the presence in this exhibition of Venice Angel. Venice Angel, measuring approximately 144 " x 44 " x 44", with a signature deep, dark patina, initiates a new line of inquiry that simultaneously rejects and yet reiterates Hopkins' contention that the Bronze Angel series is "pure cubism." The correspondence between this sculpture and the twenty nude charcoal and wash figure drawings is quite clear. However, the monumental sculpture Snap, an archway 11 x 11 x 3 feet that is based on Nara, an earlier work commissioned by the city of Brussels, Belgium and installed in a roundabout, indicates that his ongoing discourse with abstraction and monumentality is far from over.

Ranging in size from 14" x 11" to 22" x 15", and rarely seen up to now, the drawings consist of frontal and back views of crouched and reclining figures. In a strong reference to the sculptural implications of these drawings, the broad lines emphasize the weight and volume of the figures.

“Venice Angel,” 2002,
bronze, 144 x 44 x 44".

“Untitled,” 2002, charcoal
with coffee, 20 1/2 x 16 1/4”.

“Untitled,” 2002,
charcoal, 16 1/2 x 14".

“Untitled,” 2001, charcoal/india
ink/coffee/china marker, 17 x 14".

Untitled (20 1/2" x 16 1/4", charcoal with coffee) consists of a figure crouched on top of a cube. The relationship of the figure to the cube foreshadows the affinity between the geometric cube and the figure itself. They do not oppose each other. Instead, the figure seems to rise out of the abstract form. In another Untitled Figure Drawing (16 1/2" x 14", charcoal), a crouching figure, its back toward the viewer, embraces a cylinder shape approximately as tall as itself. This alliance between figuration and geometric form refers directly to Venice Angel, with its vertical upward thrust enveloped by elliptical spheres. Gazing from one to the other, the connection between the two opens up a reading not only relating to the bronze pieces at hand, but to the formal relationship between the horizontal and curvilinear, a mainstay of Dill's language.

Yet the sculptor makes it clear that drawings and sculpture still remain true to themselves. While he draws from live models, his sculptures are constructed full size using pre-made geometric bronze forms. He has in fact, stated that, "With the bronze sculptures I am making form, with the figure drawings I am observing form."