There are a lot of artists these days that can write “mixed-media” as their preferred material to work with and it would be a very appropriate choice of words because the materials are being mixed. But when the artist Tom LaDuke uses that choice of words, it seems a little odd, because whereas he does use a variety of materials, they tend to be very separate from each other. More specifically, he uses the different materials in very different stages of his work in which they become layered.
In his most recent exhibit at the CRG gallery in New York he presents us with four new paintings. Each one consists of 3 distinct layers that not only could be characterized as different materials, but different styles of art altogether. The first layer is carefully reproduced image from a well-known movie. He creates this image in airbrush and standing on its own, it is very much a work of pop art. Next, on top of this image, using another type of paint, he depicts a scene from his studio. Again, standing on its own would simply be considered a work of still-life. Then finally, on top of these two layers, he takes large globs of brightly colored paint and slathers it all over the canvas in a very abstract impressionist manner. Stacking abstract impressionism on top of still-life on top of pop-art, it is like he is trying to make an art history sandwich.
My first take on these images gave me the feeling of transitioning through dreams. There are different realities fading in and out of each other without a specific connection. LaDuke in his own words, discusses a lot about how often we only notice something when it is out of place. So perhaps by taking these three seemingly unrelated images and merging them together, he is actually calling for us to pay more attention to the details. So imagine for a second that these three layers existed separately on different canvases, we perhaps wouldn’t pay as much attention to what was going on, but when they come together in one place, it is startling enough to grab our attention and get us to really analyze what is going on. To make another sandwich analogy, if we were to take apart the meat, cheese, and bread, the different flavors and textures never get to compliment each other, but when we layer them together and take a bite, the tastes interweave and really grab our attention. Or maybe I’m just hungry and need to raid my fridge.