Guggenheim Magazine

July, 2004
Tom La Duke

Meghan Dailey

Snaking four-lane freeways, low-slung office parks, endless rows of electrical towers, and parking garages, all basking in the hazy, pollution-veiled sunshine or suffused by a pale neon glow-this is Southern California at its most banal and unidealized. Tom La Duke(b. 1963, Holyoke, Mass.) casts a keen eye on the stretch between Orange County and Los Angeles, where industry has thoroughly invaded nature-at least, that’s how it looks from the interstate. Indeed , the artist has a driver’s eye for his surroundings. and the titles of many of his works, such as WNTR PRK (2003). are abbreviated like the shorthand designations on freeway off-ramp signs. La Duke maintains the industrial theme in his materials, painting on sheets of airplane aluminum with military enamel. While the works depict gritty urban sprawl. their surfaces sparkle with affi xed pieces of copper wire, glitter, and bits of glow-in-the-dark clay. Such highlights suggest the reflective quality of glass, metal, and street lights as they are apprehended by the eye. WNTR PRK depicts the artist’s immediate environment and more: the hills in the background are actually a kind of self portrait, their shape based on a tracing of the artist’s body that he made while lying on his side.