Back Talk: A Conversation with Adam Caldwell
Thinkspace is pleased to present Dirty Laundry, an exhibition of new work by painters Brett Amory and Adam Caldwell. Amory and Caldwell each mobilize their unique representational strategies to invoke the modern day disconnect between time and space, self and other, and present and past. Today, we speak with Adam Caldwell...
Thinkspace is pleased to present Dirty Laundry, an exhibition of new work by painters Brett Amory and Adam Caldwell. Amory and Caldwell each mobilize their unique representational strategies to invoke the modern day disconnect between time and space, self and other, and present and past. Their shows open at Thinkspace this Saturday, August 4. Today, we speak with Adam Caldwell.
Amory’s atmospheric preoccupation with memory, the moment, and nostalgia, is dynamically in contrast to Caldwell’s abrupt composites and recombinations of imagery, from sources spanning mass media to antiquity. Both artists approach their medium as a means of problematizing temporal identity, and the social experience, by exposing the nitty gritty polarities and paradigm shifts of an increasingly fractured reality of the self.
Adam Caldwell’s background is variegated, a multiplicity clearly evidenced in the artist’s work. The artist’s interest in comics, and ultimately narrative based graphic media, coupled by a highly developed technical acuity for figuration and spatial construction, results in a distinctly unique and recognizable style of painting: a style that is deeply imbricated in, but ultimately subversive of, the communicative shorthands of a variety of visual media. The artist is deftly able to invoke not only the formal properties of those languages, but the affective tone and mood of them as well. Caldwell’s work is informed by an observation and collusive synthesis of these visual media and their corresponding affects. The work presents a patchwork of visual multiplicities and polarized sensibilities. The surfaces are fraught, and frenetic, recombinations of the contemporary experience as observed by Caldwell: an experience in which the self is split and colonized by a competing network of forces.
Formally the work speaks to this freneticism and fracture, combining a collage of styles and influences spanning everything from illustration, photorealism, and classical figuration, to the bombast of advertising and consumer culture media. The artist combines pop cultural imagery with post-apocalyptic images of destruction, and suggestions of advertising with images of warfare. Distinctly dystopian, the self is untenably situated in the midst of these rupturing forces as a complex and fractured entity. The “self” in Adam Caldwell’s work is subject to the ravages of an age where pop culture and mass destruction seem oddly at home together in the same image. Caldwell conveys the paradoxical nature of the contemporary psyche: a terrain of unreconciled impulses, libidinal urges, and conflicting imaginaries.
Caldwell’s imagery is complex - a sort of social architectonics. Meaning becomes a process, self- consciously crafted by the associative juxtapositions laid out for us by the artist. A common thread in this work is its intentional ambivalence and recombination, the viewer is left feeling the pull of unreconciled subjects and themes, and is unable to reductively ascribe a singular meaning to them. Aesthetically seductive and visceral, and consummately executed, the paintings are captivating and unrelenting. We are caught in their grasps and actively participate in their meaning.
Photography by Shaun Roberts
1.Where are you living and working right now?
I live in Oakland CA and I teach and have a studio in SF
2. Least favorite part of making art? And your favorite part...
I hate it when the drawing is on the canvas, the reference is all laid out, the paint is mixed and ready, and a terrible fear grips me that I cannot and have never been able to paint anything. I always get through it and it always happens. My favorite part is when the piece is done and I pull the masking tape off the edges of the canvas, revealing a perfectly clean, snow-white border.
3. Favorite medium to work with?
Oil, I cannot stand the feel of acrylics. I know its toxic as fuck, but I am willing to die a little earlier if I get to paint with smooth, buttery, delicious oil paint.
4. Last art show / exhibition you saw:
I saw the Lucien Freud retrospective in London at the National Portrait Gallery. Jesus Christ that guy could paint flesh.
5. If you could collaborate with one artist, living or dead, who would it be?
The shaman priest in a cave 30,000 years ago. In some crazy, torch-lit, mushroom enhanced ritual.
6. Artist(s) that inspire you?
Neo-Rauch, Jack Kirby, Degas, Crumb, Robert Rauschenberg, Justin Mortimer. That is, this week.
7. What time of day are you most productive?
From 8PM-1 AM. I work all day and night but that is when I do the more destructive and free stuff. Splash the paint and let it drip time.
8. Currently listening to?
Animals as Leaders, Battles, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cock Rock, Bach.
9. How do you take your coffee?
Like my men. Black and strong. Or maybe with a little cream.
10. Last meal?
Organic chicken soup. Or do you mean what would my last meal be if I was on death row? Ceaser salad, huge rare rib-eye steak, asparagus, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.
11. Last three places you have lived?
Oakland CA, Boston MA, Camden ME.
12. Last time you traveled? To where?
Had a show in London in April. You know, London. fish, chips, cup 'o tea, bad food, worse weather,Mary fucking Poppins. The art and culture in that city stunned and humbled me and I also ate a lot of meat pies.
13. What website(s) do you visit most often?
Facebook, hate it, but I have to look.
14. Website you're most ashamed that you visit daily?
Youtube, to watch martial arts, Guitar solos, and cats.
15. A quote that has stuck with you.
“A boy has never wept, nor dashed a thousand kim.” (Last words of the gangster Dutch Shultz.)
16. The most trivial thing you know?
The average airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow.
17. High school GPA?
Straight A’s till I started smoking the herb.
18. Least artistic award you've received?
I won the USAWKF National San-shou Championships in 2001. (san-shou is kick boxing with wrestling allowed). Honest.
19. Oddest job you've done to make rent?
Posing for gay porn phone ads.
20. Favorite superhero and why?
Gotta be Spider-man. I guess as an adolescent he was easier to identify with, plus he was the best at cracking wise while kicking ass.
Brett Amory & Adam Caldwell
Reception with the artists:
Sat., August 4th 5-9PM
Exhibitions on view: August 4th – August 25th