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The photography of Mac Adams

A unique feature of Adam’s practice is the inclusion of physical objects and meticulously contrived décor along with his narrative images

By Tim Maul

The striking photography of Mac Adams is featured throughout the PDF version of our December 2012 issue of DIVISION/ReviewThe striking photography of Mac Adams is featured throughout the PDF version of December 2012 issue of DIVISION/Review (PDF, 2.3MB).

Welsh-born Mac Adams graduated from Rutgers’s important MFA program in the late ’60s, a period when tendencies branching out of minimalism changed the austere gallery space into the “art context,” a laboratory where all was permitted. Conceptual, Body, Performance, and Installation Art acted out upon raw interiors below Manhattan’s Houston Street, pouring or dispersing materials on floors when not tearing them up (Matta-Clark) and throwing meat cleavers at walls (Le Va) once revered as surfaces upon which art was hung. Adams cast an analytical eye upon the residual debris of these actions noting the resemblance to the crime scene or other sites of death. In the mid-70s he began to stage and photograph sequential “mystery” tableaux, casting his family and social circle in composed vignettes laden with details, “clues,” that were to be read, interpreted, and applied from one generously scaled black and white image to the next. Adam’s constructs prefigured the lauded “Pictures Generation” engagement with cinema and elevated the photograph as a communicating medium chosen over painting. A unique feature of Adam’s practice is the inclusion of physical objects and meticulously contrived décor along with his narrative images; encounters with actual motorcycles, bubble baths and life boats transform the normally passive gallery visitor into the implicated witness.

Fictional Victorian Sherlock Holmes is currently big box office on screens large and small. What attracts today’s device connected youth to this woman-shunning, cocaine injecting savant? A one word answer would be “forensics”; also applicable in explaining the surge of interest in the art of Mac Adams.

Learn more about Mac Adams.