Bill Dixon: Versatility in the Abstract

Square One, Digital Art 32 x 22

He’s all over the place,” some might say of Bill Dixon’s art, and not realize that they would be paying this artist, who moves easily between painting by hand in the traditional manner and working on a computer, a compliment. Yes, Dixon is, indeed, all over the place in the best possible way.
    For whether working with a brush on canvas or creating digital abstractions on the computer, Dixon refuses to settle for what is often referred to as a “signature style.” Which is to say, he will not settle comfortably into a particular way of working or repeat a certain stylistic formula over and over again, turning his work into what almost amounts to a corporate logo, as all too many contemporary artists have a tendency to do, in their haste to market what collectors expect from them. Rather, he continues to explore new possibilities, always starting out with freehand drawings in pencil, color markers, and acrylics that he will later convert via the giclee process into works on paper or canvas.
    The one constant in all of Dixon’s work, however, is his unique sense of culture, which permeates and enlivens both his abstract and figurative compositions. One such “digital handmade painting on canvas,” as he calls them, is the composition he calls “Time,” with its almost fluorescently brilliant, translucent rainbow shades of red, yellow, blue, and purple-violet resounding in infinite interconnected circles, interspersed with sharp, straight lines that crisscross within like luminous rays of cosmic sunlight.

    Another, somewhat more complicated and formally varied composition in the same medium, “Square One,” is a buoyant vision of strategically placed opaque yellow, red and blue squares that establish the primacy of the picture plane in a layered field of multicolored strokes that streak like comets within a self contained universe of lively shapes and vibrant hues.
    In another composition called “Dreams,” big transparent orbs float thither and yon, suggesting crystal balls filled with luminous hues. Casting metaphysical shadows on thin air, these circular shapes move around like billiard balls within a sun-drenched abstract landscape further enlivened by vigorous verdant freehand strokes. Yet another surprisingly titled work, “Hair” (perhaps it refers to the universe of imagination each of us carries under the follicles in his or her head!) sets two such cosmic orbs afloat within the wavering rhythms of elongated forms flowing like rainbow-colored ribbons that graduate from deep blues and purples into luscious light-filled pinks and yellows with a drama suggesting the miraculous transition from darkest night to brightest dawn that heralds the break of each new day.  

    By contrast, a surprising figurative composition that Dixon calls “Riding in the Sun” depicts huge bright yellow sunflowers, reminiscent of van Gogh or Charles Burchfield, in the  foreground of the composition. Their scale gradually diminishes in vanishing perspective to reveal a precisely delineated procession of bicyclists peddling past the field under a pale blue sky, streaked with white linear clouds that emphasize their forward motion. Along with the others described above, this work could be said to demonstrate Bill Dixon’s own forward motion as a developing artist who seems never to look back as he continues to, as he puts it, “stay true to myself and the way I look at things in my mind’s eye.”
    And if that means being all over the place, so much the better.                                –– Wilson Wong

Bill Dixon, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th St., January  14 – February 4, 2014.
Reception: Thursday, January 16, 6 - 8 pm.

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