CRG Gallery is pleased to present Los Angeles-based artist Tom LaDuke’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. For this show, LaDuke continues to draw references from art history, popular culture, and personal memories to create multi-layered objects and paintings. The layers in these works are less separate planes of visual references and more a matrix of visual moments, weaving in and out of each other in the way that memories and visual cues of everyday life continually produce or erode meaning.
For example, in Split Universe (2016), LaDuke draws inspiration from Velasquez’s Forge of Vulcan which depicts the god Vulcan forging weapons of war when he is interrupted by a visit from Apollo who tells him that Mars is having an affair with Vulcan’s wife. Velasquez’s painting fades to the background of Split Universe and sets the stage for a foreground that is a complex interplay between references to Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and renderings of photographs of the artist himself reflected off and obscured by the surface of various objects depicted in the painting. Additionally, the spatial references such as deep space, limited and flat space as well as representational and actual dimension (of the sequins for instance) within the painting seem to highlight LaDuke’s desire to locate where meaning may be gleaned from such scattered fragments. Indeed, the astronaut that floats in the center of Split Universe is like a symbol for the sensation of weightlessness within which the mind may be unshackled from the physical body and free to locate a concrete “I” or inner Self inside the universe of the painting.
As with more recent work, LaDuke references Old Masters such as Durer, Rubens, and Vermeer in this exhibition by rendering each Old Master painting as a subtly blurred background on which thick impasto paint and a restrained use of embellishments like sequins and glitter both disrupt the smooth surface of LaDuke’s painting as well as exist as references that build upon the meaning of each piece. The variety of surface treatment in LaDuke’s paintings encourages a viewer’s gaze that is not fixed and unmediated but disrupted and constantly readjusting such that the viewer ends up catching herself in the act of looking and is reminded of both the ability and limitations of our constructed language – visual and otherwise – to convey meaning.
In LaDuke’s sculptures for this exhibition, Old Master paintings are referenced as objects within the paintings themselves are reinterpreted and brought to life. Like with past sculptures, LaDuke’s medium remain a combination of the humble and prosaic – superglue, salt, fingernails, human hair... However, he combines these with a more recent interest in 3D modeling using computer software (think Pixar or Dreamworks) to create an object taken from the two dimensional realm depicted in an Old Master painting and brought into the computer’s simulation of three dimensional space and finally into the actual three dimensions of our physical realm to create sculptures with an inherent fragility and ethereality. Like the astronaut in LaDuke’s painting Split Universe, these sculptures seem to reside in the space between the material and immaterial and between the commonplace and the uncanny.
Tom LaDuke received his BA from California State University, Fullerton (1991) and his MFA from The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, Illinois (1994). LaDuke has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including one in 2010 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia which then traveled to the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC. He has been included in group exhibitions at the Orange County Museum of Art, CA, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR, and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC. He is in a number of public collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA, and the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.