Those who favor a meditative kind of art could do no better than a visit to the current dual exhibition at Lora Schlesinger Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The front gallery offers a selection of recent paintings by Richard Bruland; and tucked away in the small back gallery is a collection of works by Sophia Dixon Dillo. Though they share that meditative quality, these are two artists with very different visions. Bruland's painted surfaces are richly textured, colorful, intense; Dillo's small paper works are spare, delicate, eschewing color in favor of zen-like simplicity. Together, they challenge the mind and delight the observing eye.
Richard Bruland--by way of disclosure, I should note that he is a past, long-time member of an artists' support group of which I was also a member--builds the surfaces of his paintings with multiple layers of thickly and unevenly applied acrylic paint, sanding them down to reveal the resulting complex substructure. Typically, in the past, he has worked with a sometimes hard-to-perceive grid, stressing the horizontal or the vertical, allowing the eye to find the reassurance of stability in the subtle, ever-shifting sea of color. Typically, too, he has worked with a gradual shift from light to darkness, adumbrating the progress of life itself, or of the moments of our lives as our moods change imperceptibly with the constant flux of feelings.
Richard Bruland Yodel, 2014 acrylic on dibond panel 36 x 84"
In his recent work, the grid is attenuated and sometimes disappears completely. Instead, he works with what my eye perceived as lacunae--"holes" is too crude a description of these effects--that draw the attention from moment to moment away from the complexity of the surface and into the depths behind it. Like supernovas in the universal panoply, dark holes, dangerous attractions, they act as tiny whirlpools, at once pulling in and repelling the fascinated eye as it roves the surrounding areas of paint. Of particular interest to me were two paintings where Bruland seems to have allowed free rein to his flirtation with the dark side--one predominantly a deep, midnight blue...
Richard Bruland Banderillas, 2014 acrylic on wood panel 24 x 24"
... the other almost entirely black...
Richard Bruland Queen of Swords, 2014 acrylic on wood panel 30 x 30"
... dark, glowing presences that invite a meditation on that ultimate and tantalizingly unknowable human experience, death itself.
Sophia Dixon Dillo's small works on paper are, by contrast, as quiet as a whisper. The artist uses a knife to create small, sometimes tiny slits in the surface of the paper, lifting it into a subtle relief. With an infinite patience in which she invites us to participate, she repeats these slits in patterned variations, creating enchanting musical effects...
Sophia Dixon Dillo Untitled (2474) detail, 2014 incised paper 7 x 7 "
... that speak to us with the gentleness of a soft rain or the ephemeral passage of a flight of birds...
Sophia Dixon Dillo Untitled (2506) detail, 2014 incised paper 16-3/4 x 16-3/4" - framed
The modesty of her scale and of the marks she makes appeal to my appreciation for smaller, less overtly ambitious works of art. Their obsessiveness speaks of an inwardly-directed vision, the search for an always elusive perfection that is characterized, paradoxically, by its opposite, the imperfection that is built into our human nature.
Sophia Dixon Dillo Untitled (2490) detail, 2014 incised paper 26-1/2 x 26-1/2" - framed