Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lisa Adams: Now, Shamelessly Gorgeous

Lisa Adams, 'The Future of Paradise Past,' oil on panel, 32"x 78", 2008

I first encountered the work of Lisa Adams in 2004, when a curator tapped her for the "Carpetbag and Cozyspace" exhibition at my gallery, Healing Arts. Her work at that time bore little resemblance to what you see above; it was diminutive, cryptic, and engagingly bizarre. She combined odd text phrases with enigmatic and vaguely hostile foreground images, superimposed upon lusciously painted backgrounds. Her artist's statement declared that she was addressing different states of consciousness with each of the elements in the painting--intellectual, emotional, spiritual. I was all over that, of course, and included her work in another exhibition, "Visual Poetry."

Now, four years later, she is still playing metaphysical games with her imagery, but she has left aside the text and the odd objects in favor of the exuberantly pretty--vines, birds, flowers. The pictures pack a hefty consciousness wallop. They have precisely the same effect, to my mind, as extended contemplation of a Zen koan; the intellectual tangles of the sharply painted vines are superimposed upon backgrounds of moody, open sky, encouraging you to let go of your own circular thinking and access the raw emotion underlying those thoughts, eventually releasing even the emotions. Ultimately, the process is one of liberation. Her painterly technique is formidable, all of it rigorously directed toward the goal of taking your mind off technical concerns. The painting is so successful that you forget you are looking at a painting.

For all its universal import, Lisa's work is deeply and specifically personal. She says:
I try in my work to embody my own sense of what it is to be alive, to encapsulate the difficulties in being human, experiencing all the itinerant shadings of joy, sadness, rage and despair, the things I am sometimes afraid to look straight in the face. Most of my paintings ask difficult questions both of me and of the viewer. These questions comprise a larger aesthetic that infuses my interest in spiritualism, pathos and the strangely complicated and enigmatic discourse between human beings.
This, in my view, is what great art does. It moves from the specific to the universal, speaking a visual language which defies intellectual analysis. Looking at painting is an experience. When the medium seamlessly conveys its content, without intermediary translation, that experience is a transcendent one.

Lisa's upcoming solo show will take place at the Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles from January 10--February 14, 2009. Highly recommended!