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Fragments: Adam Blue

Art New England, Aug/Sept 2008


AVA Gallery and Art Center
Clifford B. West Gallery
Lebanon, New Hampshire
April 18 - May 24, 2008

By Craig Stockwell

Adam Blue is an artist who has enthusiastically taken on the postmodern concept of artistic production that has no center or recurrent style other than the stated aspiration to “break away from what he’s done last.” Curiously, the most compelling/accomplished work in this show is the “found” exhibition of works (1916-1918) by the discovered (and fictional) artist Hamilton Stillwell. This “lost” member of the Parisian Avant-Garde created a variety of constructivist works that are both meaty and delicate and fully captured my attention and pleasure, something the paintings and other ideas of Blue’s only titillated. The entire show was presented in four Fragments: Abstracts, Updated Baroque Cartouche Series, The Stillwell Collection, and The Most Useful Painting Ever Made in a History that Arguably Does Not Exist. 

There is interesting work here: good painting, the use of line and color and movement is astute; and good ideas, his writing on the Cartouche series is intelligent and wide ranging in its references. And yet…Blue’s gambit raises the question of the uses of modernist art from a reverse perspective. Modernist art has always, at its best, required a leap of faith on the part of the artist and the viewer to accept that so little, or so abject, or so minimal an effort was acceptable as art. In this case we are asked to find this art engaging and worthy of attention when we can see, up front, that the artist himself knows better. The artist knows that it is all only brush strokes and line and it can be either this or that. It is thus curious that this effort should result in the most convincing artist being the fictional one. This is a wonderful point to make but I’m not sure it was intentional and it leaves the viewer with the recurrent sorrow that a lack of faith covered by wit can bring. It is a pleasure to see an artist trying out these ideas in a part of the world where such a debate doesn’t often get engaged, but it is also apparent that Blue’s scattering of possible ideas has not yet received the sharpening that a more engaged conversation could bring. 

On a closing note, it should be noted that AVA gallery and Art Center has completed an especially fine renovation of its building and gallery space, this is a renovation that was sensitive to history and to environmental concerns. The place reeks of accomplishment and possibility.