Tom LaDuke’s newest works are seductive, intriguing, and playful, yet complicated. They encourage viewers to cautiously examine and reorient themselves in a world where both the real and unreal coalesce. In this series of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, LaDuke continues his exploration of time, space, and perception—an existential reflection that has preoccupied the artist in recent years.
Fascinated by the energy within spaces, LaDuke chooses to depict his studio as well as galleries that not only house his favorite artists, but also are easily recognizable to viewers. He sees the architectural space of the gallery as the spine of an exhibition: it disappears and serves merely as the support for hanging shows. Before putting brush to canvas or pencil to paper, LaDuke uses Blender, a 3D computer graphics software, to draft the design of the work. As a result, each work in this exhibition has a digital counterpart, where the objects represented can be rotated and observed from every angle. This includes lighting, color, texture, viewing position, and depth of field. The paintings and drawings on display capture a single snapshot of a landscape that exists in digital memory.
Depicting what at times appears to be a foggy film projection or airy unidentified industrial spaces, LaDuke builds the foundational layer. Despite its blurred quality, it alludes to an existing space and is meant to draw the viewer in through a feeling of recognition. The subsequent layers in the foreground—often comprised of a series of brightly, colored impasto brushstrokes—frequently refer to equally real elements outside of the frame of view established by the initial background. These seemingly untethered marks are reflections of components that are behind, aside, or in front of the determined picture plane. LaDuke’s paintings situate the viewer in an illusory middle dimension, suspended between the many layers. Though done in graphite on paper, the artist’s drawings are also created through a similar process, albeit with slightly more eerie results. While the surfaces of the works are a broad playground, reality is always present.
LaDuke adopts this same approach in his sculptures. Made out of graphite, CA adhesive, and acrylic, "The Very Place I Could Not Remember" is a perfect example of the artist’s illusionary, yet slowly recognizable world. At first glance, the balloon-shaped form appears to be reflecting the surrounding space in its glossy finish. Upon closer examination, however, the viewer realizes that the surface holds a painted reflection of the artist in his studio—creating a disorienting effect.
In each of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures, LaDuke presents multiple layers to consider, all with their own references and meanings. His works compel the viewer to pause and observe as the elements gradually unfurl and become apparent in ways that may be surprising. As Benjamin Weissman describes, “Viewing these paintings means giving up your expected routes and sense of direction, letting the painting keep you off balance and giving yourself over to its vocabulary, layering, rhythms, rules or lack of convention.”