For my first official SFAQ post, I’m happy to report on Jeff Ladouceur’s exhibition AMEN, recently opened at ZieherSmith in New York. Ladouceur, a Canadian-born artist dividing his time between Vancouver and Brooklyn, is a delightful individual with successful solo shows in New York, Los Angeles, Brussels and elsewhere. The artist has a long-running relationship with ZieherSmith, and this is his fourth solo endeavor with the gallery since first showing with them in 2004. AMEN, composed of 24 drawings and three sculptures, is a leading title, as the fragmented narrative evidenced throughout the exhibition seems overwhelmingly concerned with humanity’s problematic, confused and often turbulent quest for enlightenment.
Ladouceur is a “draw-er of the first order”, as AMEN reflects, yet the exhibition also includes several small sculptures- outshone (or perhaps simply outnumbered) by the drawings, these delightfully crude little totems break up the open floor plan of the exhibition space and tease out a recurring image from the two-dimensional work.
Ladouceur’s drawings truly revel in the hand-surface relationship, and this valuation of the mark making is something I always appreciate. Precisely rendered images exist atop paper left dirty from the labor of the drawing. Graphite smudges and visible erasure point to the ideas at work, being sketched out then taken away, built up then torn down. In several drawings, one can clearly see what remains of ideas deselected; all this providing viewers with frequent “meta” moments, allowing us a glance into the artist’s progress from start to finish.
Particularly intriguing are two works in which Ladouceur employs geometric abstraction as a means of spiritual vision or message. Joy to the World, the drawing that occupies the postcard, seems a poignantly ambiguous announcement of the exhibition’s motives, directing viewers down a polyvalent rabbit hole through which we might infer that varying religious/spiritual cues and signifiers have fallen upon a handful of absurd characters to make sense of. If you can imagine Robert Crumb’s “Mr. Natural” delivering a “state of the world” address on our collective spiritual well-being, but doing so through visions of Philip Guston and Piet Mondrian, you may begin to appreciate the complicated task one has of deciphering Ladouceur’s particular oeuvre.
Ladouceur utilizes a language that will be blurrily familiar to many of us, subconsciously quoting comic/cartoon characters we faintly remember from childhood, as his characters guide our boggled understanding of the world’s belief systems across visions of totem poles, lotus blossoms and piles of elephant heads; all the while new age gurus, goofy mystics and Biblical actors flex and fumble through their roles as spiritual advisors, leaving us to sort it out for ourselves.
The artist was kind enough to provide a dose of clarity: “I am not a religious person… but I am a living, breathing creature in this weird and wonderful universe and everything is connected in ways no matter what people try to package things as. I think from birth folks should develop their own language and alter and evolve via their individual perceptions. Time and space can squeeze new things out of us.”
That’s certainly a perspective I can appreciate!
Jeff Ladouceur’s show AMEN runs through July 12, 2013. If you’re unable to make it to the exhibition, the excellent Zurich-based publisher Nieves released little book to mark the occasion. Check it out!
-Contibuted by Louis M Schmidt