In his recent, and most dazzling paintings to date, Los Angeles artist Tom LaDuke has defined (or perhaps “discovered” is a more accurate term) a refined kind of Superrealist space that is not of this world, yet familiar all the same. It is an elusive space, for sure, but I hesitate to call it abstract, since most of the paintings recall a brightly lit interior, like that of a typical contemporary art gallery space. In the paintings, white walls are punctuated here and there with passages of even more blaring white, like spotlights or floodlights. Each of these large-scale compositions invite the viewer into a pristine gallery, just like the one in Chelsea where these pictures now hang.
What goes on inside the painted “rooms” constitutes another sort of visual and cerebral workout for the viewer. In each painting, a palpable burst of energy emanates from the more or less central area of the composition. In Houses of the Holy (2021)—highly conducive to an accompanying Led Zeppelin soundtrack, I imagine—an elongated and violent swath of dark gray, like a cosmic cloud, rushes through the center of canvas. This passage of unruly ether seems to be anchored in the space of “the room” by a bravura passage of a colorful hook—stripes of rich impasto brushwork in the form of a backwards “C” on the lower right.
Tongues of Grace (2021) is even more exacting in its rigorous spatial play. Here, what appear to be gallery skylights illuminate painterly patches of contrasting color, light, and infinite spaces. Suddenly, foreground and background dissolve, and a contradictory reality takes holds, intentionally disorienting the viewer in summery fashion. Thankfully, LaDuke offers a glimpse of another dimension, another world, perhaps, as an alternate reality that is thrilling to behold and contemplate in these trying times.