|Jeff Ladouceur’s fourth exhibition at ZieherSmith, AMEN is a humble celebration. In a revealing recent interview the artist speaks in reverent terms about his current surroundings and in particularly the experience of life in New York: “Right now… I'm inspired by the earnest folks that have made it clear that they are sworn to the quest in a certain way.” The interview is interspersed with language of humility— words like nourished, seeding, and plowing forth being integral to both the conception and the outlook of Ladouceur’s practice.
The drawings that unfold can be seen as acts of supplication and resignation, evidenced by recurring characters forever caught between simpering grimaces and loving smirks, their outsized, over-cushioned paws seeking purchase on something more solid than themselves. Bodies unfold and crack apart like toy eggs, sometimes consisting of nothing but a mass of tangled noodles. In one piece, a robed longhair carries a placard adorned with a stark, minimalist artwork, as though parading in the name of some kind of purity. In another, his protangonist has the same minimalist gesture for a head, and stands, bent at the knees with hands extended in oblation, holding a grinning, melting totem pole. Other characters are mere mop-heads propped up with wood, acting as shelter for other starkly silhouetted figures to crawl in for safe hiding. In keeping with the notion of some earthly or spiritual protection, a cobbled-together wooden house appears more than once, suggesting a deeply human desire for security.
The centerpiece to the exhibition are two large, scroll-like drawings, in which several long-standing narratives coalesce for Ladouceur -- book ends to the many peculiar tales he has hinted at in the past. In one, a roiling sea of clashing rogue waves mocks both the act of inspiration and, as characters float and sink among the chaos, the resilience of humanity in the face of nature. The other scroll is dotted with art world motifs and characters burrowing into holes, sprouting and spewing. Despite their individual poise under ludicrous duress— this mass’s loony, cumulative effect is on par with the best humour noir— indicating a heartfelt concern for the abject half of our ultimate essence and acting as vaporous hallelujahs for the human condition.
Ladouceur is one of the leading young figures from Canada’s increasingly renowned tradition of contemporary drawing. He divides his time between Vancouver and New York.