Marina Adams: What Are You Listening To?
New york cityLGDR
What Are You Listening To?
May 17 – July 1, 2022
In a room with fewer corners than one expects hang two new paintings by Marina Adams that mesmerize and bewilder. They are the same big size and the structures of their compositions are of a kind, but the surfaces tell different stories. When painters use form as a vehicle the tendency is to explore color relationships and textural variety. Sureness of form separates one voyager from another and by this measure Adams is amongst the masterful. Her paintings feel powered by the self-propelling energy of one for whom creation is also rejuvenation. Their stories are like those of the universe—movement, time, balance, and force are decisive qualities.
It took a little while to realize I’d been spellbound by the paintings, because it didn’t happen all at once. The effect on my body was cumulative. I suspect the exhibition’s layout, careful and precise, played some part. Spread through several rooms and multiple floors, the show included work in three scales. The smallest paintings—many in number—were executed in gouache and lined up edge to edge. These works have numbers for titles and the loose and light touch of someone warming up the connection between body and brush. Notably there are forms that occur in these works which one encounters over and again in the larger pieces yet to come.
Each scale of work is at least double the previous, which establishes a particular succession of experience as one’s body seems to diminish proportionally. The smallest works are most expressive of the wrist; the next size up correlates with the shoulder; the biggest express full bodily motion. What they all share is the organizing element of form, which may be better understood as a particular set of decisions that arrange the body’s movement across the surface of the painting. As the form recurs on different scales it registers in various ways. Once you’re standing before paintings that dwarf your body the memories of those swift, wristy lines that curved from one edge to another seek their counterparts. This seeking is how one ends up in a state of bewilderment.
It’s not as if the design of all her compositions is based on the same organizing form, but there is one that predominates and in Twenty Springs and What Happened to Dream Time? (both 2022) it achieves stunning elegance. With two lines that cross twice as they arc across the linen surface Adams establishes three central shapes positioned between four outer shapes, each of which she paints a particular hue. The arrangement creates planes of color that rub against one another along continuous lines and points of convergence where those lines intersect. The form achieves a sort of fluid symmetry, and in Twenty Springs that quality is enhanced by the balance of warm and cool colors—three each. A sense of satisfaction rises from a place that intuitively appreciates the degree of coordination all this requires. Satisfaction couples with awe when admiring the grace of the artist’s touch, visible in brushwork that is swift and confident.
Orienting oneself amidst paintings such as these is bound to be tricky. In another room Adams presents two works on opposite walls in which the form is inverted. Subtly, the artist keeps her audience on an edge of recognition. It’s as if the intersections, boundaries, thresholds and borders that occur in her work imbue the viewer with the psychology of those kinds of places, where the energies or expectations of change and transaction are enhanced. The effect is a sharpening of one’s awareness, a quickening of perception, a proclivity to seek without the benefit of knowing precisely what one is after. Such is life, such is happiness.
From where do the artist’s chosen forms emerge and how does she settle upon them? The question of origins rises naturally, but misleads. It presumes a logic to time that is linear, and that doesn’t seem accurate to the cycle of creation these paintings are part of. The seed that grows into a tree fell from a tree that grew from a seed—this seems equally true for the paintings of Marina Adams. As her body of work expands, one imagines the force of momentum that enables Adams to realize inexhaustible variations of particular compositions becomes greater. This is an encouraging proposition because all these paintings emanate an emotion yet unnoted: joy.