Guy Diehl

A Dialogue with Tradition II
November 5 — December 5, 2015

Opening Reception: Thursday, November 5, 5:30-7:30 PM

Still Life with Modigliani #11, 2015 I 22 x 30 inches
Still Life with Modigliani #11, 2015 I 22 x 30 inches

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce A Dialogue with Tradition II, an exhibition of new works by Bay Area painter Guy Diehl, on view November 5–December 5, 2015. Over the past thirty years, Diehl has explored the still-life format to make art about art, finding new and nuanced modes of execution to illuminate ways of both seeing art and appreciating the art historical canon.

Within the last year, natural light has become a central focus for Diehl, who previously relied on artificial illumination via incandescent light to create his unique variant of realistic paintings. Diehl explains: “While collaborating with a photographer friend and colleague, I was shown new ways to manipulate daylight that I had not considered before. Seeing endless combinations created with daylight and subject matter, I can set up a still life and photograph it throughout the day, while working with the visual changes that the natural illumination will bring to the composition.”

Painting, of course, is rooted in the science of light: each pigment is the result of a particular mixing of different colors of light. As Diehl’s work has long set itself in immediate dialogue with art history—each painting creates a reflexive narrative around a specific artist, such as Richard Diebenkorn, Amedeo Modigliani, Egon Schiele, and Francisco De Zurbaran, among others—a return to the most basic form of illumination, one that is elemental to painting, therefore brings his entire process full circle. 

Although none of the paintings are explicitly about Vermeer, they are all suffused with the Dutch artist’s hallmark mastery of shadow and light to create depth, richness, and movement. In Conversation with Egon Schiele (2015), the objects take on an enhanced vitality as a result of the bright, low, raking daylight that Diehl observes, records, and synthesizes as it moves across the objects. Here, the dark face of a rectangular white box is offset by its brightly illuminated side and top, which are further enhanced by the shadow-play of a spherical object that sits on the box. Contrasts provided by an intriguing object wrapped in parchment paper are equally dramatic and add important texture and depth to the composition by introducing a range of mid-tone values. Finally, an otherwise static postcard featuring one of Schiele’s nudes, reinterpreted here by Diehl, is cleverly set in motion by an iridescent shell marked by swirls of pink and blue. The shell also figures as a symbol of the feminine and a nod to art historical iconography in that it codes, among other things, the Fibonacci sequence—otherwise known as the golden ratio—made famous by Leonardo da Vinci and here embodied by Schiele-cum-Diehl’s sitting female figure.

Guy Diehl was born in 1949 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned his BA from California State University Hayward in 1973 followed by his MA from San Francisco State University in 1976. In addition to exhibiting extensively across the United States and at select international galleries, Diehl was featured in the acclaimed 2014 exhibition “Realism, Really?” at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Oakland Museum of California. This will be his third solo show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.