Fall 2014 International Artist-in-Residence Program

Weight of Culture

  • Fall 2014 International Artist-in-Residence Program
  • In-Residence Dates: Sep 16,2014 - Nov 17,2014
  • Exhibition Dates: Nov 13,2014 - Jan 18,2015
  • About the artist
  • Artpace-53Adam Helms

    Adam Helms, a self-described artist-as-ethnographer, explores the psychology and iconography of radical politics and subcultures. Using a variety of media—ranging from photography, drawing, sculpture, and found images—the New York-based artist engages the viewerRead more

About the exhibition

Why did you decide to build walls and break the gallery up into three conjoined spaces?

Initially I knew I wanted to use the existing architecture of the gallery to create separate spaces for the work, and attempt to guide the viewer around walls in either of two directions, so that the works on paper would be hidden upon first entering the space. The double-sided wall allowed for a particular experience of pure color and minimalism, as each alternate side has a good deal of black and white images to digest. Also, there is a formal relationship to the materiality of the wood to the works on paper (photogravures, photopolymers, and the gouache works), on each side of the gallery. As the work in this show is in many ways a series of references and symbols, the associations among all the pieces start to have connections within the show and bounce off each other.

Why did you use this specific color scheme throughout the exhibition?

The colors I use are the standard prism utilized in Technicolor. As much of the images I reference are from television and film history, I’ve started to use this color scheme as a sort of signifier in itself within my bodies of work at the moment. The sides of the gallery with only the raw wood (and wood patterning) are the absence of this signifier—a different kind of psychological zone. And these zones are where the images start to interrelate as sets of narratives. So these colors are as much a symbolic device as a conceptual strategy of separation.

How do these image-based works function in terms of narrative?

The image based pieces—the photogravures—are inspired from an art historian named Aby Warburg (1886-1929), who devised a view of art history based in displaying images of repeating themes he saw in the work of Antiquity and The Renaissance. One particular theme he focused on was that of pathos and trauma in sculptures, prints and paintings from this particular period. He called these “Pathos Fields.” In this ‘Warburgian’ way, I approach my source material with a similar guise. Although for me, the cultural materials I draw from are more broad and from a variety of time periods. Most importantly, I am interested in how the viewer will be inclined to draw narratives within each of my own pathos fields. And there are no specific narratives I am seeking to create, only the impulse of the viewer to possibly seek one for themselves. In this way each image, or series of images, can carry a certain ‘weight’ to the relationship the viewer brings to the gallery.

How do you relate personally to these images you use?

The images come from an archive of images that is continually expanding. They are found on the internet, from film stills, scans, and found materials. Most of them—and many that
comprise this body of work at Artpace—are from films book materials that have significance for me. One is an image from The Saga of the Swamp Thing, that I used to read in my youth. Others are from films that are important to me. Other images have symbolic importance to themes that I think about and apply to my experience or relationship to the world. There are emotional connections and narratives that drive me to make the particular assemblages of materials and images I use, but also I see the work as having more of an autonomy to undo itself after it gets made. There is a worldview or ideology that perhaps unconsciously drives me (an impulse that has become part of my practice to utilize) that unifies all the work in an exhibition. The process itself of sorting through the archive and creating the work is the most interesting part to me; the meaning of the individual pieces can change for me over time.