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Adams Puryear explores the Internet’s flow of convoluted information and how tactile materials and different media can represent it. Experimenting with physical translations of the Internet’s anti-filter rabbit hole, Adams continues to return to the materials of ceramic and gypsum to create historically sedimented sculptural elements contrasting present-day electronic displays and dynamic materials. Obsessively grazing over electronic images of history and culture, Adams understands the Internet’s growth and its visualization of time as one slowly unfolding in a nonlinear and ultimately muddled formlessness. In much of his work an amorphous and colored blob, moving in-real-time from a ceramic container, becomes another dichotomy to the push-pull of digital-analogue, historical-new, formal-experiential oppositional elements in the work. Paradoxically it is this oozey blob — a material with a comparatively short lifespan and history that over weeks empties from the sculpture’s body and continues to change until it reaches a solid state — which slows down a viewing and resists a tidy resolution. This is the work’s answer to our culture’s continued acceleration.
In “Nature, Fashion & War,” I have created large-scale charcoals and tapestries that draw connections between the human desire to want more of everything versus the destructive impact our consumerism has on the environment and the survival of our species. The colorful, multi-layered, fashion-inspired tapestries in “Nature, Fashion & War” contain objects that were on their way to becoming trash. At one time these items were desirable status symbols or served a functional purpose. By smashing, wrapping, and sewing old shoes, clothes, toys, jewelry, cans, and other debris into pliable surfaces, then combining them with carefully painted and drawn images of politicians, nature, people, and monsters, I create topographical narratives that comment on the systems destroying life on earth.
These works are my answer to author Naomi Klein’s assertion that “No Is Not Enough.” This exhibition speaks to the catastrophic effects unregulated industries are having on us, the role human nature plays in that, our coping mechanisms, and strategies towards a healthy inhabitable world. My titles often reference books and articles from notable journalists like Naomi Klein, Jane Mayer, Sharon Lerner, Brene Brown and Arundati Roy. Since the recent re-invention of “fake news,” I have set out to create mammoth illustrations interspersed with giant word balloons inspired by these authors’ well-researched works. These works are intended to illuminate the intricate web of violence, greed, love and beauty that comprise human nature, in order to help tip the future towards our positive instincts and away from those hurling us towards extinction.
Sam Nhlengethwa has worked on a number of prints of goats, these are the second series of goat images that he has done at The Artists’ Press. The goats are drawn so as to reduce them to almost abstract forms. Goats provide metaphors for a number of human traits and Nhlengethwa plays with these in the titles that he has chosen and in the different ways in which he depicts the goats. In South Africa, goats are culturally and economically significant. Goats are a hardy and adaptable stock animals, surviving in both rural and urban areas. They provide nutrition as well as being used in a number of traditional ceremonies from welcoming a bride to communicating with one’s ancestors.
Nhlengethwa has worked with The Artists Press since its inception in 1991. Mark Attwood and Sam Nhlengethwa were two of the initial group to establish the Bag Factory, also known as The Fordsburg Artists Studios, which is where they started to collaborate together on prints. Over the years The Artists’ Press has published 161 editions by Nhlengethwa, 65 of which are sold out.
The ancient Greeks imagined the machinery of fate as three women, weaving the lives of human and gods into an enormous tapestry, killing or giving life by snipping or knotting a thread. Through the medium of photography, in my new series Woven, I imagine myself introducing time and thus mortality, into the lush flora and fauna which make up the millefleurs backgrounds of medieval hunting and falconry tapestries. The 5 x 10 foot photographs sometimes take weeks to compose, and during this process of composition, of collecting, arranging, burning, painting, and transplanting, there is change. Flowers wither, spiders build webs, new shoots emerge, and corpses decay. Influenced both by the Dutch vanitas tradition and the allover graphic compositions of Jackson Pollock, I intend the photographs to be experienced as exquisitely detailed still lives when viewed from up close, but to hold together as a immersive, more abstract composition from further away. Although the pieces are all made on the same wooden frame and printed at the same scale, each photograph incorporates a distinct set of conceptual and visual ideas. Some are densely packed with rotting plant and animal life, and others more open, sprinkled with small brightly colored flowers or verdant moss. What is common to all, however, is a sense of opulence which verges on excess, a plenty which verges on plunder. In these elaborately artificial tableaux, the inexorable movements of nature are shown forth and growth and decay, beauty and terror, life and death are woven together.
I am a strong believer in place, and how a region, community and a home will shape who you are. The place I know, where I was raised, is the Black Belt region of the American South. It is how I was raised, as a Southerner and as a Jew in a small southern town, instilled with belief in family and tradition that motivates me to document the place I call home.
Paint as material belongs to the sense realm, a phantom limn of touch. As a process painting might become a brush with pleasure, a stroke that rubs the wrong way, a sideways glance, a covert encounter. I can’t stop. I don’t want to stop. Paint pushes me but I push back.
My current work is about women. Although it’s becoming more recognized in this current moment, it has always been clear that clubs, books, movies, etc. that are about, for, or by women are thought of in a lesser subcategory. It’s popular in certain circles to dismiss groups such as cheerleaders and sorority members and, though I understand the criticisms, both institutions were created by women who just wanted the same opportunities as men. This tension between what looks frivolous and what in another light is actually feminism is why I’m so interested in these groups. They are also a microcosm of power dynamics. I use the positioning of figures and their poses, colors, uniforms, and scale as well as the baggage of stereotypes to explore the nuances of the hierarchies within and between groups. What are the unwritten rules, and do we claim power or willingly give it away to be polite?
The subtle contradictions that exist within a painting are what interest me most and sustain me in my practice. I want my work to be beautiful, but at the same time unsettling; serious, but with a comedic aspect. I create a narrative around these ideas while the work is in progress and believe that the inherent contradictions that emerge add another level of richness to the world within the painting.
Although rooted in an abstract tradition, my work makes clear references to the natural world. I spend as much time as I am able near the water: listening, watching the light, collecting. It is my intention that the images depicted, while not recognizable per se, be believable and exist logically within the environment of the painting.
Subject matter and process are seamlessly interwoven; the way each painting evolves, both technically and conceptually, is of especial interest to me. I emphasize the pure physicality of my materials while also exploring their alchemistic possibilities. My hope is that a compelling tension exists within these paintings, and that they feel familiar while hinting at something ethereal and unknown.
My paintings are built from a merging of the languages of representation and abstraction with mythological overtones. I prefer to maintain a pictorial fluidity between the observed world, internal/symbolic content and the formal demands of each painting. This fluidity mirrors the act of painting as a give and take between artistic intent and what emerges. I hope to engage the viewer in a journey of discovery that is analogous both to the journey of making a painting and the journey of transformation in life.