Primal Tan Redux: Lisa Dillin Will Make You Bronze and Happy by Cara Ober

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As far as artists go, Lisa Dillin is more consistent than most. For years she has illuminated the odd discrepancies between natural and manmade environments, building objects out of florescent lights, office furniture, and fake plants. The artist combines a wicked sense of humor and an immaculate sense of craftsmanship, and recent bodies of work have focused her attention on the culture of the workplace, where office furniture can be aggressively banal and faux nature abounds. After her impressive display last summer at the BMA’s Exhibit of Sondheim Finalists, a competition many thought she would win, you would expect this artist to relax a bit and take it easy. However, Stopgap, Dillin’s solo exhibition in the huge Gallery 4 is her most ambitious project to date.

If Lisa Dillin’s previous bodies of work were about alienation, her newest show emphasizes inclusion. If past exhibits were sly and cheeky, Stopgap is a belly laugh and bear hug. Although Dillin’s characteristic method of pairing natural and artificial is still at the forefront of her newest works, their participatory nature softens and warms them. At the center of the exhibit is a spray tan booth, complete with color coordinated bikinis, shorts, and sarongs, where the artist will airbrush you with spray tan chemicals, until you are a coppery bronze. At the opening, after tanning, the participants were allowed to hang out in a secret ‘club’ area with faux stone benches, an amazing ‘stone’ mini-fridge full of microbrews, and animal pelts on the wall – a modern caveperson’s paradise. Although they were scantily clad, most tanners chose to remain in costume for much of the evening, creating a costume party atmosphere full of giddy confessionals where embarrassment was transformed into a badge of honor.

The exhibit consists of other Dillin-esque objects and environments, including one full of geometric formica ‘islands’ sporting faux ferns, a linoleum floor depicting sticks, stones, and dinosaur bones in hand-cut shades of linoleum, and a stainless steel ‘watering hole’ designed for an institutional setting. The bowl is actually a water fountain sporting multiple spicketts, so that multiple drinkers can sate their thirst like deer at a forrest spring, sitting on artificial grassy knolls.

All environments are exquisitely crafted and larger than life, providing an all-encompassing experience that appears to be spontaneously generated. Rumor has it that the water fountain required significant plumbing adjustments to the gallery, with the removal and rebuilding of the wall behind it, but you’d never know. Dillin’s attention to detail and willingness to perfect each element of her delivery is essential to the success of this show. It is not to be missed.

The opening was March 16, but you have a second chance. On Saturday, April 13th, from 7-10, Dillin brings back the participatory work Primal Tan. You may want to bring your own bathing suit in case supplies run out. Complimentary rum punch will be served! Stopgap will be on view until April 20th.


















Gallery Four is a 10,000 sq. ft facility featuring six live/work artist studios and a contemporary art exhibition space. Gallery Four is located in downtown Baltimore’s H&H building.

dillinPosterWeb 10.57.34 PM

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