***The galleries at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center has extended John M. Adams’ art exhibit “Current Interrupted.” His work will be on display in our first-level Forum Gallery through Dec. 18. In an effort to give more insight into Adams’ work, why he was compelled to create these dynamic pieces and what we can expect in 2017, the Schlesinger Center spoke with him about his artistic process.
Adams is also currently working on a site-specific wall drawing for the Schlesinger Center that will debut in January 2017. This wall drawing will be his largest to date, so check back on our blog soon for more details.***
Schlesinger: What was the inspiration for Current Interrupted?
JMA: I’ve always been interested in the perceptual connection between artist, object and viewer. In this new body of work, I am continuing my exploration of the art object as a catalyst for contemplation and meditation for the viewer as well as the artist. In terms of imagery, I’m an avid outdoors man and find myself equally inspired by the structures of the natural world and of those of the suburban/urban environment in which I work. The format of this work was also influenced by the birth of my son, who was born earlier this year. He is with me everyday, so he spends quite a bit of time with me in the studio.
Schlesinger: Compared to your previous work, how is Current Interrupted different?
JMA: The rhythm and atmosphere of my studio has been fundamentally altered because of my son. It’s no longer just me in the studio for hours thinking, looking, making marks. My time and attention are divided between him and the work. I quickly realized long painting sessions in which I got lost in my work were no longer a possibility. I had to find a way to be able to create continuity, flow and maintain focus in the paintings while working in five, 10 or 15 minute snippets of time.
As my son was becoming aware of his surroundings, I noticed he focused on patterns made of repetitive bars or rectangles (such as the sides of his crib). This led me to build off of some small studies I made 10 or so years ago but never explored; all of a sudden, they resonated with me in a new way.
I started making large paintings quickly, with scaled back color schemes (1-4 colors). The paintings were more saturated and intense than in much of my previous work – no doubt influenced by the colors that were grabbing his attention. I found myself paying particular attention to the micro-relationships of positive and negative space within the paintings. I then separated the paintings into strips 1.5-2 inches wide. Working one strip at a time, I reconstructed the painting, placing a portion of each strip on a new surface. Once the first strip is placed the next strip is chosen and edited based on the previous strip or strips.
To me it’s an intriguing process that allows me to keep the focused contemplative approach while being able to build the piece at an irregular pace in a number of sessions if needed. He was in the studio much of the summer when I made all of the work in this show. It’s completely changed the way I work and live.
Schlesinger: When people look at your work, what do you hope they get/learn from it? What kind of reaction were you going for when creating this body of work, and what kind of conversation do you hope it provokes?
JMA: In this new body of work, I’m continuing my exploration of the art object as a catalyst for contemplation and meditation, for the viewer as well as the artist. Fluid marks are juxtaposed with the regulated rhythm of sharp horizontal line breaks, which creates a fluttering vibration and tension in the paintings. These elements pull me into exploring those relationships and I can spend some time with them, just looking. I’m interested in what happens when snippets of perception are edited, reconfigured and compartmentalized to give them new meaning through their relationship to the whole.
Schlesinger: A lot of artists say that a piece is never really complete. If anything, what would you change or do differently about this body of work?
JMA: That’s part of what keeps artists going, the “what if” effect. I’ve got ideas about scale, color schemes and process that will lead to new work. I just have to see where it goes. I’ve continued to make new paintings using the same process, and I’ve got a big project coming up so…
Schlesinger: What should artists and admirers of your art expect next? Feel free to mention the upcoming wall drawing and any other projects, exhibitions, etc., that you have coming up in 2017.
JMA: January 9-20, 2017, I’m installing a site-specific drawing in the atrium of the Schlesinger Center. It will be the first site-specific drawing in the art center and it will be my largest to date, reaching over 20 feet high and extending 30 feet at its widest point. I’m extremely excited about it. I’ll be launching a crowdsourcing campaign very soon and I’m sure you will see more information on this blog when it is live.
John M. Adams specializes in painting, drawing and site-specific work. His art can be found in private, public and corporate collections including in the Wilson Building at D.C. City Hall and the D.C. Art Bank Collection.