Now Featuring Michael Dopp

Michael Dopp aptly described his own work when he mentioned, in talking about his influences, “there is something of the void in the hallucinatory.” Witty and spare, his images gesture not just to other visual experiences, but to language, film and literature.  His economy of means is part of the charm, allowing allusions to flood blank space, and busy patterns to recede into emptiness.

To view the LPP print collection: Go to the LPP shop.

Exclusive Print 1

Exclusive Print 2

Exclusive Print 3

Exclusive Print 4

Exclusive Print 5

Exclusive Print 6

MH: I’m interested in the fact that your titles often hint at complex objects or concepts (Fractal, Mr. Natural) but your images are black and white and elegantly reductive. Is that tension deliberate for you?  Can you talk about it?

MD: Some of the paintings have titles that point to ideas outside of themselves that may not be apparent within individual pieces. At times I also use the titles for whole bodies of work in the same way. The use of titles is always a challenge for me, and I use them sparingly. When I do use them, creating tension is perhaps one of the best results I could hope for.

Glasses, from California Visual Music series

MH: Many of your images, usually abstract ones, are titled Film Still. Is there an actual referent from a moving picture that you’re using? (The titles also make me think of Cindy Sherman’s early work, which also drives home the flatness and geometry and non-photographicness- I had to make up a word - of your images.)


MD: You are referring to a body of work I titled California Visual Music, which refers to a group of mid century experimental and abstract filmmakers. Many of the paintings in the series reference or reproduce parts of films by John and James Whitney, Harry Smith, Len Lye, Jordan Belson, Oscar Fischinger among others. The compositions are selected sometimes randomly, sometimes very particularly, from what are usually kinetic narratives of abstract forms. Isolated this way they become specific, albeit obscured sources. While with other paintings within the same body of work I used the title Film Still for pieces totally unrelated to the films and not derived from any source at all. I wanted to cite the source of the appropriated images while also complicating or negating the usefulness of the titles purpose.



MH: Your Dilate series, full of kite images, reminds me a bit of the work of Lee Bontecou, whose work balances weightlessness, dimensionality and darkness so expertly.  Anyway, I like it.  Can you talk about how your work has evolved to be flatter and more schematic/diagrammatic?

MD: I love the work of Lee Bontecou. I have not thought of the relationship between the Dilate show and her work before, though the parallels are interesting. Actually when I lived in Chicago I would spend a lot of time looking at her piece in the Art Institute. Her use of materials and centralized compositions always appealed to me. The focal point seemed to be of absence or void, both literal and symbolic, becoming in turn stand-ins for presence. With the Dilate paintings, visual language and the titles are bound up and conflate intention. With one group of paintings called Vanishing Points, I referenced spatial rendering, while a sort of deadpan flatness is the actual subject. I think that my subsequent shows and series of work has moved toward what you call the schematic or diagrammatic, as a result of becoming more entrenched in an engagement of revealing process, an indexing of making supplanted some of the visual layering happening in work a few years ago.


MH: I’ve referenced a couple other artists who come up for me while looking at your work.  Who are you looking at, thinking about?

MD: I was just in New York and their is a fantastic show at the Met: The Printed Image in China 8th-21st Century. The highlight of which were 9th Century woodblock prints from Dunhuang, which are rudimentary but elegant images of the Buddha repeated in rows creating a grid like pattern that extends for five yards.


MH: Can you talk about the meshes is the background behind the studio shot above?  I am intrigued.  Is it other work, packing material?  In fact, many of your images (not the Dilate series, but lots of others) do seem to conflate deliberate pattern with material/mechanical accident, which I can see being quite related to your interest in abstract filmmakers.

MD: The grid paintings are an ongoing series. I have been making them the last few years in conjunction with different bodies of work and have shown them alone and with other paintings. My feeling of how they relate to other paintings I have been making fluctuates between obvious and obtuse. They are made by combining a straightforward, almost lax application of paint executed with regularity that leaves a certain amount of room for the accidental. I begin by covering the whole surface of the canvas with a intuitively mapped grid composed of thin hand cut strips of tape. Every point of intersection is marked by the absence of paint, in the case of these paintings the raw unprimed canvas is seen. The grids, just as the paint, are applied with a sort of loose approximation, spacing and size varying and imperfect. The fluctuation and pull of the image comes in and out of focus and attention returns to the frame, or support itself. In some ways the process of making the paintings is the image itself, and whatever qualities are left over from the making help to disrupt or inform what is visible. Seen this way the paintings are located between chance and intention, and it is this binary that becomes both an optical and conceptual tug of war. The paint itself is ultra matte, I add joint compound to the acrylic and gouache to create a surface that does not reflect light, and is somehow related to the wall itself, sandwiching the painting between the image and the architecture.



MH: Where did your interest in space/void derive from?  Besides the Bontecou connection, it also feels quite literary somehow, and makes me think of the book Flatland.

MD: I like the Flatland connection…Literary and film references, however much of a stretch, always interest me. Though I know my disparate interests may not really make themselves apparent in the paintings, I’d like to think all that stuff percolating in the firmament is present. Maybe there are traces of Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space or the films of Jacques Tati in the paintings… I could probably trace the origins of interest in the exploration and negation of space to my childhood love of ‘magic eye’ illustrations in the Sunday newspaper, or watching patterns and images emerge from water and mineral stains on the rock walls of quarries in southern Indiana. The hallucinatory always held sway over my imagination. And it seems to me that there is something of the void in the hallucinatory.


MH: How do you develop your installation work, like Night Gallery? That piece feels a bit shrine-like, or at least much more meditative taken together than any of it’s individual parts would alone.

MD: The installation of works at Night Gallery were definitely in response to the space itself. When it’s possible, I try to be sensitive to the space the work is going in, as for Night Gallery, the space is very idiosyncratic. To begin with the gallery is painted completely black, a sort of negative or inverse of the ideal white cube. As so much of my work is monochromatic and dealing with black, white and shades of gray, this gave the pieces an opportunity to have a different relationship to the wall than they do in other galleries. In some parts of the gallery I utilized the wall like a void and the works seemed suspended in space. I also used the wall as a subject, acting as a stage upon which objects are choreographed. Some of the source material in the show conflated early modernist imagery and ancient tantric painting. I think the shrine quality you mention arises from the interaction of the gallery’s space and the imagery of the works. Night Gallery is a very active and exciting environment to exhibit in, not to mention just a very special gallery in LA.


MH: What kinds of projects are coming up for you?  Shows, residencies, dream projects you’re planning but have no idea how you’ll do?

MD: The art collective from New York HKJB who I have worked with is putting on a exhibition in Montreal at Laroche/Joncas at the end of the month and that should be great!



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