Dennis Adams: In the Red & Walking on Wolves
April 8 – May 27, 2016
In The Red (2012-16) is the title for a series of recent text-based works that foreground propositions and first person narratives about money, culture, history and journalism. These texts are over laid on found street posters, news photographs, book covers and film stills that push and pull against the visual and semantic readings of the texts. Adams adopts the American expression, In The Red, for the title of his exhibition, to mark the fragile link between the global financial recession of the last few years and more subjective accountings of loss. Originally overlaid on predominantly red colored backgrounds, Adams has more recently expanded his palette to a full range of hues, including the dark green used to paint over posters hung in the POST NO BILLSzones of New York.
Walking on Wolves was first exhibited at Galeria Moises Perez de Albeniz in Pamplona in 2011. The work consists of one thousand eight hundred and thirteen sequential film frames printed individually and scattered in clusters across the entire floor of the gallery. The sequence is extracted from José Luis Borau’s film Furtivos(Poachers), 1975, and spans one of the most savage and hauntingly beautiful scenes in the history of Spanish cinema. Against the backdrop of a lush autumn forest, the camera tracks a folkloric old hag tending her animal traps: the scene reaches its climax in her brutal attack on an injured she-wolf she finds caught in one of them. Furtivos was released at the apex of the cultural permissiveness that had been building in the drawn-out months leading toward Franco’s death, in the fall of 1975. Directed by José Luis Borau, the story was conceived as an allegory that would test the limits of official censorship. The film embodies the last throes of Franco’s brutal legacy through its depiction of incest and cruelty in its peasant characters. Borau’s choice of the forest as the backdrop for his story challenged Franco’s myth of Spain as a “peaceful forest.”
In its presentation at Kent, Walking on Wolves is only provisionally exhibited as a souvenir of its intended installation. In it’s full deployment, Adams’ scattered film frames were free to be walked upon by the gallery audience. This extended its allegorical reach into the present, as an index for our own fears. This display method would become the backdrop of Malraux’s Shoes, 2012, a video in which Adams plays André Malraux acting out his anxiety as he paces over his plates from his Le Musée Imaginaire.
The Artist. From the metamorphosis of Patricia Hearst to the SLA, and back again, to the trial of Klaus Barbie, from the omissions and distortions of Joseph McCarthy to the execution of the Rosenbergs, Dennis Adams has singled out controversial figures and events from our not-too-distant past that, if buried underneath layers of silence, still carry an explosive charge. Over the past four decades, Adams has produced site-specific works, often in highly visible locations such as bus shelters, and urban public settings that focus on the phenomenon of collective amnesia in the late twentieth century. A survey of ten years of site-specific interventions was published in a monograph entitled Dennis Adams: The Architecture of Amnesia (1989) written by Maryanne Staniszewski. The publication was followed by two mid-career surveys organized by the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen and the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston.
Beginning in 1998, Adams began to explore the possibilities of video with a project entitled OUTTAKE first shown in Bremen, Germany and Kent in New York. Adams presented a 17:23 second segment (416 film stills) of the un-telecast German documentary entitled Bambule directed by Ulrike Meinhof in 1969. These photographic stills were re-recorded with a small arm-mounted camera as they were distributed along the Kurfurstendamm in Berlin, as “handbills,” or “flyers,” associated with political propaganda and advertising.
Following the events of September 11th near his Tribeca studio, Adams created a series of fourteen photographs portraying the detritus filled sky over lower Manhattan. The series was entitled AIRBORNE which after being shown in New York in 2002 was subsequently featured in the Le Mois de la Photo (Montreal) 2003 and PhotoEspana (Madrid) 2004.
In MAKE DOWN (2005), Adams addresses the complexity of layers of representation contained in one cinematic fragment from The Battle of Algiers, particularly in the context of the ongoing transformations of the historical conflict between Islamic and Western cultures. Instead of presuming to unravel these meanings, Adams chose to literally locate himself between the frames of the images, as he reshoots the sequential film stills, one frame after another, as they are used as wipes to remove make-up from his face.
Adams has been a faculty member or Visiting Professor at numerous institutions including: Parsons School of Design, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, and the Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, Munich. From 1997 to 2001, he was the Director of the Visual Arts Program in the School of Architecture at MIT in Cambridge, MA. He is currently a Professor at Cooper Union in New York.
For further information please contact Douglas Walla (DKW@KentFineArt.Net).
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V Magazine | May 2016 | Eduardo Andres Alfonso