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LGDR Partners
Installation image of Marina Adams artwork

Marina Adams

What Are You Listening To?

New York
3 East 89th Street
May 17 – July 1 2022

What Are You Listening To? is an exhibition of new paintings by Marina Adams. Committed to a pure painterly expression, Adams makes rigorous explorations of color and form that situate her squarely in the tradition of New York School painting, with its emphasis on gesture, spontaneity, and improvisation—an aesthetic and methodology shared with poets, musicians, and dancers alike. Her signature style, refined over several decades, coalesces here in a new body of work in which shifting colors and elastic forms are counterbalanced by the weight of their individual components.

“I finally came to consider colors as forces, to be assembled as inspiration dictates,” the 72-year-old Henri Matisse said in a 1941 interview. This “force” is visible in all of Adams’s work, and is especially evident in her new paintings. Such forces include compositional dynamics like the play of inner and outer space as well as in the physical agency of the body—its gestures and presence in the world. In persistent dialogue with art-historical heroes Matisse, Willem de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell, among others, Adams probes the lineages of Modernism while adding her own voice and momentum to this tradition. The palette of Twenty Springs (2022) echoes generously a monumental Nana sculpture of Niki de Saint Phalle, and its organic tower form looks to an intimate Sonia Delaunay drawing for inspiration. Despite these connections, however, Twenty Springs announces itself on its own.

The alluring sensibility of Adams’s paintings likewise pulls from disparate influences beyond the realm of painting. Architecture and music, textiles and carpets, utilitarian tribal objects, illuminated Coptic manuscripts, Islamic ornament, and folk arts are among the cultural practices that have inspired Adams; their acculturated patterns and embedded politics ultimately find their way into her paintings. The patterns of Uzbek robes displayed in an open book in Adams’s studio seem to flow into Let the River Answer (2021), while the colorful geometric designs of late-19th century Native American rawhide saddlebags become the invisible armature behind EttaEllaEartha (2022).

In 2021, Adams moved her studio from industrial Brooklyn to a newly constructed building on the East End of Long Island, famous for its uncanny natural light. This bright new airy space heralded a clean slate and strict edits: its fresh walls were lined with blank canvases of three sizes, while a patchwork of specialty brushes, favorite postcards and books of art, poetry and textiles were spread across two low tables. The works Adams has created here feel more determined, physical, and sculptural than her previous improvisational, sinuous paintings. Immersed in the natural setting of Long Island, Adams has also called upon associations with other locales meaningful to her. The appeal of the Mediterranean, both ancient and modern, inserts itself into her compositions of color and brush. Extensive work and study in Rome, summers in her studio in Reggio Emilia, travels in Greece (from where her grandparents immigrated to the U.S.)—all these locations are manifest in the paintings through color and light, and an elemental relationship with earth, sea, and sky.

In making and installing this exhibition, Marina Adams has responded to the various shifting palettes and architectonic forms of the spaces at LGDR’s flagship building at 3 East 89th Street. A suite of three paintings—Like a Tree (2022), Song for My Mother (2022), and Stone Cold Fox (2022) juxtaposed with the aptly titled DIVA (2021)—was painted with the Beaux Arts architecture of the building’s Stone Room in mind. Says Adams, “The relationship between painting and architecture is reciprocal, whether it be an Italian Baroque chapel or the proverbial white cube. Whenever possible, I try to establish a dialogue between painting and architecture. Both are about construction and form and activating space.”

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