Shadows of the Light
Like so many after the 9/11 attacks, Dial was fixated on the people—their death, suffering, and human kindness. But the first paintings he finished in the following months looked backwards to earlier work and earlier themes as if he were at a loss for a language in which to proceed. Reaching Out with Love and Fear revived one of his primary images of the 1980s and early 1990s, the tiger. The tiger is the black man, struggling in a jungle of rules meant to keep him confused and keep him down; the tiger is dangerous, too, capable of murder, but it wants to reach out. Because the tiger had often been an autobiographical symbol for Dial, the tiger here incarnates that desire of his to commune with the victims and survivors immortalized in on-scene videos of the debris clouds rolling over fleeing pedestrians. The figures touch (love) and back away (fear). The tiger is dancing with a flayed man who is running by; the figures are sinuous and outlined against a roughened, dull-bronze surface, much like sunlight playing on airborne grit.
In a companion piece, Shadows of the Light, the contrast is even more pronounced between the white space and the dark shapes in freefall. Light and dark, good and evil, black and white dance a bizarre two-step of helpfulness and helplessness. The simplification of the forms and the formalized interactions between image and background are reminiscent of Dial’s first large-scale paintings in the late 1980s. —Amei Wallach