Periodically, we review newly created artist profiles in the BRIC Contemporary Artist Registry and select one of exceptional merit to feature. Wayne Adams is a Brooklyn-based artist, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who received his B.F.A. from Calvin College and M.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in 2000. Adams has exhibited throughout the Midwest, New York, and Vienna, Austria and is interested in how painting can address deeply personal notions through abstraction as well as representational imagery. At times he uses unique materials such as aluminum foil and faux fur to create surfaces which are simultaneously tactile and optically engaging. We spoke with Adams about his artistic practice.
How do you go about documenting your work for the internet? Is it important for you to capture the tactility of the object in a digital image? I sort of go by the understanding that you only get a flat, single perspective from digital images. It's a terrible way to look at paintings (or sculpture or most non-web-based artwork, but it's what everyone uses and so we do the best with it. If the work piques your interest, come see it!
You often make use of pattern in your work; how do you address themes of the personal or the intimate in relationship to the seemingly mechanized edges of stripes and Benday dots? For me, the shapes and patterns I use are very personal, which is the crux of what I find interesting about painting and abstraction right now. Initially in this series, I didn't really know why I was so fascinated by fading stripe or chevron patterns. During the whole process, my dad was in the late stages of Parkinson's Disease, which he had dealt with for over nine years. One day it dawned on me that I've been focusing on incremental shifts and changes in how I recognized him every time I went back to Michigan to see him. Incremental shifts in color in my paintings all of a sudden had this deeply personal association for me with time passing and my Dad (literally) passing on. For me, this was a way of opening up abstraction to personal and intimate ideas. Whether someone can access any of that when looking at the paintings, is a whole other matter. I have to be okay with them existing outside of my proximity. Titles are useful as a location device for helping viewers connect with some of these ideas.
What is the function of improvisation in your practice? Improvisation is really important for me. I do a lot of small studies, a lot of experimentation and a lot of editing. I'm learning to work with a balance of intuition (in the moment) and planning for larger or more time-consuming pieces. This all allows me to step back and make observations about what and why I'm interested in a particular mark or pattern in the work. I learn about myself and the work in the process. A friend of mine calls being an artist an "ascetic practice." I agree. Improvisation is a regular part of that practice.
Would you ever allow gallery visitors to touch your works? Oh sure. I've got a series of work on faux fur right now that people ask me all the time if they can touch. I guess I'd have to work out the issues with durability and damage, but it's an interesting idea.
What has kept you painting through the years? I suppose it's the ascetic approach that keeps it going. Painting is a process that's part of how I react to and interact with the world. It helps me focus on particular ideas and work through issues in unexpected ways. It also helps to have the encouragement of being able to show the work regularly and build relationships with people who really appreciate the work. I'm interested in a lot of conversations around the art world and how artists I respect address those conversations.
Has working in Brooklyn affected the way you approach art-making? Working in Brooklyn has meant that I can actually live a somewhat normal life and still make art. By that, I mean it's been affordable. Brooklyn also has a laid-back sense to it that just works for me. It's not that people aren't driven or don't work super hard, but it's something of an openness or ownership of place that I find really appealing. I've lived here for almost 13 years now. It's been great for finding and developing community with other artists and for being free to experiment (and fail!).
Interview compiled by Ilana Harris-Babou