John Dillemuth‘s work that was on view at the Palomar College Boehm Gallery was another tour de force offering by one of the most innovative and creative practitioners in the San Diego visual arts community. Mr. Dillemuth is a mid-career artist producing an array of well conceived, mature works of art. The show is titled, un/bridled and in his own words: “explores two aspects of a linked theme related to nature and culture, the wild and the tamed, the unruly and the domesticated. In the play room interactive contraptions act out pleasure and pain scenarios. These crude mechanisms are attired with intimate apparel, skin, that alludes to desire and the drive, references the body, and tickles the funny bone. They also function as toys embedded with boyish narratives, and quirky movements. The whimsical, playful, and interactive nature of the work invites the viewer to actively participate in these stories.
In the other room, the bridled space, are mixed a number of different materials, styles, and applications to create a comic and romantic version of the home. This is a tamed space; a complete piece of staged Americana, partly constructed with materials from Home Depot and decorated with items from thrift stores. The car and sofa are my own handiwork. While this space is not a playroom, the car and washing basin do contain moving parts, and function similar to toys. Like the playroom, there is also a suggestion of a presence, not the boyish, but grandmotherly and the feminine.”
The contraptions that Dillemuth constructs are a combination of either large, wooden machine forms fabricated out of hand carved/whittled sticks, branch and board and joined with tinker toy like connectors with fabric additions, while the other objects are wholly sewn forms without any wooden structure. The machine forms all have articulated joints allowing the parts to move with a variety of nonsensical but visually, logical functions. These works are interactive and invite the viewer to complete the creative process by becoming the activator/operator of the machine or contraption. The wholly sewn forms are much more passive in that respect. It is in the articulation of the joints that imbues Dillemuth’s work with deeper meaning. To the casual viewer we are at first struck by the sheer delight of these objects, the color the scale and the movements, but with a more sensitive inspection of the relationships between the various parts, a deeper psychological implication begins to emerge. The skins of fabric are pulled and stretched across, over and through the lattice stick structures as in the piece titled, ‘Double Decker Long John Minimal’ Men’s, white, cotton, long underwear have been cut and stretched in various directions across two, stacked, cubed space frames. The upper stick frame is joined to a twin lower stick frame at a common hub at each vortices and the entire structure rests on four bedsprings. When activated by a foot pedal and a small motor, the entire structure begins to shiver and shake, and the stoic minimalism of the cubed forms is instantly transformed into an anthropomorphic gesture of sexual innuendo.
Mr. Dillemuth’s allusions to boyish or girlish bodily innocence are loaded with psyco-sexual drama, and his craft of joinery and articulation of parts goes far beyond their material means. Symbol is joined to symbol, the movement of one form in relationship to another creates symbolic gestures which in turn often set in motion a stream of thoughts or ideations triggering the funny bone which in turn creates that wry smile you see throughout the gallery audience. We are taken from our initial Rube Goldberg, Dr. Seuss perceptions of these colorfully exotic and absurd images into a mental construct, closer perhaps, to an artist like Henry Darger, with all of the implications of the dangers of childhood innocence. Dillemuth’s ability to invoke and decipher profound symbolic meanings about gender, relationships and our own sense of innocence is masterful and delightfully pure, both in concept and expression.
un/bridled ran through March 2nd.
Mr. Dillemuth is represented by theKunstRaum H&H Gallery in Cologne, Germany he is also on view at the Z-one Gallery in Osaka, Japan.