LA Weekly

Art Picks of the Week
November 23rd, 2001

Art Picks of the Week: 
Marina Moevs, Tom LaDuke

Peter Frank

Marina Moevs’ landscapes are vertical and tonal, which only enhances their dreamlike quality (90 percent of us dream in black and white). Although buildings figure prominently in Moevs’ views, they are unpopulated – and, indeed, imply not just our absence but our extinction. Lakes rise and engulf houses and trees, seas suck houses into the undertow, forests grow up down the middle of downtown avenues, tumbleweeds invade suburban tracts, forest fires lick at clearings – clearly, nature has gone off-kilter and knocked civilization for a loop. But Moevs’ pictures convey more than just global-warming, On the Beach melodrama. They impart an eerie serenity, a visual grace (her. technique is smooth and silky),  an atmospheric harmony that seems to argue, convincingly, that nature is seeking its own level, and our needs and artifacts happen to be in the way, so get used to it. If these images appeared in the newspaper or National Geographic we’d sign the Kyoto protocols posthaste; the way Moevs paints them, however, they make the end of the world an attractive alternative – not a crude bang, but a tender whimper.
 If Moevs postulates a post-human landscape, Tom LaDuke records (and constructs) an all-too-human one, an endless expanse of manmade structures scraping a sky dulled with smog. The tonalism of LaDuke’s paintings is as measured as Moevs’, but means exactly the opposite: the all-too-actual perversion of nature by “culture.” While in his sculptures he builds whole landscapes (from cast parts of his body!) and plays nastily with the figure, in his paintings LaDuke presents a parade of tops of things, as if capturing them while driving by on the freeway. Indeed, these vast silhouettes and extravagantly faceless roofs, some festooned with incongruous animal balloons, will be familiar to anyone who drives the periphery of L.A. Bred behind the Orange Curtain, LaDuke is the master of the drive-over landscape, the Burbank/Brea/Seal Beach urban desert whose upper surface he
skims visually – just as we do.
Marina Moevs at Koplin Gallery, 464 N. Robertson Blvd. (310) 657-9843. Tom LaDuke at Angles, 2230 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 396-5019. Both thru Dec. 8.