Adams and Ollman (Portland, OR) and Alexandre Gallery (New York, NY) are pleased to present an intergenerational, dual-artist presentation with works by painters Pat Adams and Mariel Capanna. With a shared interest in composition, color, and shapes, these two artists use material and technique to communicate their own distinct poetic languages.
In her paintings, Mariel Capanna (b. 1988, Philadelphia, PA) records fleeting colors, shapes, and gestures that she notices in the backgrounds and edges of films, documentaries, home videos, and slideshows of found family photos. Free-floating loops, orbs, and dashes, as well as trombones, cars, and hanging laundry at the periphery of perception are captured with quick brushstrokes and dabs of paint in a palette of soft pinks and earth tones gleaned at dawn and dusk from the artist’s physical environment—Maine, in this case, where this new body of work was created. Referencing both physical space and mediated experience through a depth of field and marks that live on the surface, Capanna's paintings are built of competing gestures that are in tension with one another, asking the viewer to hold opposing ideas in mind at the same time. Through both harmonious and dissonant relationships of color and scale, Capanna’s paintings explore the shifting nature of perception: are we inside or outside, is it now or then, are things near or far away?
Pat Adams (b. 1928, Stockton, CA) implements an abstract vocabulary of hard and soft line, vibrant color and shapes, and textured surfaces to explore complex metaphysical ideas in her paintings. Working with a core of geometric forms—circles, curves, lines, squares, and various spherical variations—Adams expresses a deliberate poetic language, also reflected in her titles, writings, and talks. The material vibrancy of these poetic works is further explored through her experimentations with surface, often mixing sand, beads, shell, or mica into pigments to produce texture, movement, and shimmer. Drawing from a rich plethora of emotional, visual, and historic sources, Adams seeks to draw coherence from the disparate, pleasure and ease from the vividly indecipherable “whatness” of being. As Adams said of her work, “Yes, furthering the empirical/spiritual questioning comes from a state of mind. Marks made from impulse, calculation, happenstance, push open shards of evidence recombined into a new state of many-sidedness.”
For Pat Adams inquiries:
Marie Evans and Phil Alexandre
"I’ve thought a lot about 'nameability.'... In my earlier paintings especially, the work is really an accumulation of nameable things. The titles of my paintings point to that as well—they’re usually some sequence of three to five nameable things you can find in those paintings. And usually the titles end up having a nursery rhyme-like rhythm, so they’re sounds and syllables as much as they’re words [describing the] things that are pictured." —Mariel Capanna
"The nameable things end up being all of these little distractions that end up becoming an engine for shape and color and some kind of compositional structure." —Mariel Capanna
"...It often is as much a word as it is a color and shape. So, sometimes I’m noticing a shape of red in the upper left hand corner of the screen, but sometimes I’m remembering the word 'car' or 'hat'. So I’m naming things in the process of painting, but then they become an occasion for color and shape." —Mariel Capanna
Pat Adams and Mariel Capanna
MC: I read the transcript of the lecture you gave at Yale at Norfolk —now called Yale Norfolk School ofArt. I worked there for the summer of 2019 — I was the program coordinator there. I was so happy to think that we have that place in common, that campus.
PA: I loved being there of course, I was lucky—they had Aldo Parisot’s cello studio that they let me paint in in the afternoons, because I was working as a secretary to the dean at the time.
You know we also have a shared relationship with Bob Schoelkopf — I saw that you have a grant with him. He and I met in 1952 in Florence, and the first modern painting that he bought was one of my 1952 works from my first show in Manhattan. So you and I go back 60 years! It’s really nice to have this nice part of the art world. So much of it is so crazy, but there really are deep affections that go on year after year through these different programs.
MC: I try as hard as I can to connect myself to the nice parts of the art world. I’m glad that we have some nice crossovers. And yes, I’ve not met Bob Schoelkopf, but I received the Schoelkopf TravelAward between my first and second years in graduate school and I used it to travel to the Cusco region of Peru to study Colonial-era wall paintings on plaster walls in churches and cathedrals. Not exactly frescoes — but kind of fresco-related paintings there. It was a pretty remarkable experience.
PA: I don’t know that material—it tends to be kind of flat, doesn’t it? The images are sort of boxed and set side by side in a flat way, or, how would you characterize what you saw?
MC: Well, the paintings that I saw in Peru were painted with earth and mineral pigments combined with a binder on dry plaster. I’ve spent some time studying true fresco painting, so I’m always interested in painting techniques that are related to fresco. The paint, materially, sits very flat on the surface—and in the case of these paintings in Cusco, there isn’t a lot of illusionistic depth; there’s a lot of flat imagery directly onto the wall. There’s also a fair amount of painting that emulates wallpaper. So there were different styles of painting in these spaces: sometimes the goal was more about storytelling, and other times it was more about decorative wall painting.
PA: I was sorry not to see the show at the Whitney of Orozco and those other fellows, but I read somewhere about the connection between the flatness of previous styles underlaid the flatness ofAbstract Expressionism. They were saying that this was one of the things that Pollock and Rothko picked up, which is an interesting idea.
MC: Very much so. I’m sorry to have missed that show as well. Right now, I’m looking out on Lake Wesserunsett in central Maine. I’m on the campus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture where I’ve been working here this summer helping some alumni residents make fresco paintings in the barn. It’s a unique kind of painting because most paint materials are pigment plus some kind of binder, but in the case of true fresco, the binder is in the plaster on the wall, so it’s not until the pigment and the surface meet that the paint really forms.
PA: Looking at your work, the early pieces that I saw, looking at the marks you were making I noticed that there were certain figurations. I wondered about that—were you concerned with timing between looking at and discovering things that were nameable?
MC: That’s such a good question and I’ve thought a lot about “nameability.” I also saw that in some of your writing, this idea of “nameability” or “unnameability” came up. In my earlier paintings especially, the work is really an accumulation of nameable things. The titles of my paintings point to that as well—they’re usually some sequence of three to five nameable things you can find in those paintings.And usually the titles end up having a nursery rhyme-like rhythm, so they’re sounds and syllables as much as they’re words [describing the] things that are pictured. The nameable things end up being all of these little distractions that end up becoming an engine for shape and color and some kind of compositional structure. They’re usually gleaned from moving images, so I’ll watch some series of films or videos or slideshows and I’ll grab whatever it is that catches my attention and place it down. It often is as much a word as it is a color and shape. So, sometimes I’m noticing a shape of red in the upper left hand corner of the screen, but sometimes I’m remembering the word “car” or “hat.” So I’m naming things in the process of painting, but then they become an occasion for color and shape.
PA: In a way I understand what you’re saying and I have a variation of that in my work. I call it quiddities, which means “whatness,” which means it doesn’t have a name but it is a something. I, too, just grab things—whether it's purple or anything else that comes in through whatever sense of mine I’m attending to. I feel very close to that idea. I’m wondering what you’re thinking about as you have this diverse selection of things that you’re gathering together. Simultaneity in your mind is a good thing, yes?
MC: Yes, totally.
Mariel Capanna received a BFA and Certificate of Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and an MFA from Yale University. She has been an artist in residence at the Guapamacátaro Art and Ecology Residency in Michoacan, Mexico; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; and at the Tacony Library and Arts Building (LAB) in Philadelphia. Capanna has also been the recipient of the Robert Schoelkopf Memorial Traveling Fellowship and an Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship. She is currently a Fresco Instructor at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Mellon Post-MFA Fellow in Studio Art at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.