Tom LaDuke continues to explore the edges of perception in his paintings and sculptures — and to get closer and closer to going over those edges. Unlike his older pictures, which depicted mostly empty space, his new acrylics depict space emptily — that is, the actual contents of his spaces are practically indeterminable, as they’ve been painted in swaths of grisaille, a gray smear so obscure as to make Gerhard Richter’s infamous photo-derived images look like Wyeths. If you were driving in such a fog, you’d pull over, but LaDuke insists you peer into it, trying to make out where you are and what you’re dealing with. The sculptures seem more straightforward, until you examine their materials and the clever little elisions — not at all shortcuts — LaDuke employs to make them more veristic (if less “realistic”).
The three abstract painters in “Off the Grid” don’t simply work on a grid, they melt away the grid’s rigid tyranny with constant diversion. John Lyon’s plaid patterns often bulge and bend as if billowing in a wind or swelling underwater; their already snarky take on the grid, turning it into so many tartans, is thus heightened with a broad burlesque. Alex Couwenberg’s off-kilter geometries also elaborate on rectilinear relationships; increasingly, his employment of curved corners is a structural device for getting out of the 90-degree trap without betraying the cool but rhythmic “soul” of the grid. Arron Sturgeon’s marbled version of abstract expressionism seems to have nothing to do with any grid system. But let your eyes span these gorgeous encaustics and count under your breath: There’s a regular pulse, the visual equivalent of a metronome underneath all the swirls and cracks and clots, that keeps Sturgeon’s rich style from collapsing in on itself. The original ab-exers painted to jazz until they inhered its swing, and Sturgeon nicely updates that approach. Tom LaDuke at Angles, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (310) 396-5019. “Off the Grid” at William Turner, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (310) 453-0909. Both thru June 16.
Tom LaDuke, I Renounce Myself (2007)