The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

ASSASSINATION: Lisa Adams, Artist Represented by Lawrence Asher Gallery and Michael Rosenthal Gallery

with one comment

Photograph of Lisa Adams in the rain. Courtesy of Facebook.
Lisa Adams: A Mechanism of Harbingers, 2007, oil on panel, 48 by 72 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Asher Gallery.

My friend Lisa Adams. Her insightful paintings and works on paper analyze the whimsical yet darkly humorous aspects of avian imagery combined with a growing awareness of ecology. This fascination with the character of birds goes beyond mere documentation of species like the catalog-like artwork of Audubon but a hard-nosed exploration into the background and lives of these fascinating animals whom one takes for granted, mostly.

Apart from being an extraordinary painer, Adams is an instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles as well as a co-founder of Crazy Space for Experimental Art, an alternative exhibition venue in Santa Monica, and many other curated projects. Her deep involvement and breadth of experiences within the art world have helped to vault this artist as a very generous and kindred spirit who has helped other artists, students, and art professionals towards aspiring into greater achievements in doing more contemporary artwork.

If you have any questions about Adams’s paintings or her works on paper, feel free to contact Lawrence Asher Gallery at or at (323) 935-9100. Also for some of her other work, you can contact Michael Rosenthal Contemporary Art at (415) 552-1010.

Adams’s work never has made birdwatching the same ever again. Now on to the show and so here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this “assassination”:

qi peng: To begin off on a lighter note, Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around Los Angeles or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Lisa Adams: There are places I go and things I do that are inspiring, calming and enjoyable. I love going to see films. It’s a great escape for me to sit in a big black box and get lost in a scenario that’s not mine. I love going to the Angeles National Forest, which is only about a 45 minute drive from Downtown Los Angeles and to the Griffith Observatory to look at the vastness of the city. I’m an amateur birder and enjoy walking along the L.A. River around the Los Feliz area where many ducks and geese stop on their migration route.

In Downtown Los Angeles there are a lot of great restaurants, Nickel and Pete’s Café on Main Street, Blue Star on 15th Street off Santa Fe Avenue, Tratoria 25 on Santa Fe Avenue and Suehiro on First Street Downtown Los Angeles, Pho Café on Sunset in Silverlake. Also I love going to Newcomb’s Ranch, a restaurant/bar, in the Angeles National Forest.

qi peng: What is your opinion of art world journalism and art critics such as Jerry Saltz or Roberta Smith? Do you read periodicals such as ArtForum or ARTnews to get an up to date understanding of what goes on within the art world? Do you have any favorite artistic blogs or websites that you enjoy looking at on a regular basis? Do you feel that smaller, regional art markets like Denver or Salt Lake City will have a chance to expand their horizons into becoming essential and vibrant art hot spots just like Los Angeles or New York City during the recession? What do you think is the current state of contemporary art within the Los Angeles area where you live and work?

Lisa Adams: Art world journalism is important to any serious artists’ practice. I do read critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, Smith more frequently than Saltz. Every morning I read NY Times UrbanEye online I also am a big fan of Robert Storr, Modern Art Notes and anything that Tyler Green writes.  They are some of the most serious and informed writers I know.

There are so many great art blogs out there.  My personal favorites are ArtsJournal,, what the butler saw, Edward Winkelman, AWOL (art without limits), Megan and Murray McMillian, KCLOG, The Brooklyn Days and of course I’m addicted to Face Book.

Regarding periodicals, I read Flash Art is my favorite but I also like Art in America and Modern Painters.

One never knows how a recession will play out but the art world been through one of these already in 1990 though not quite this deep and it’s fascinating how the art world re-groups.  A number of galleries have already closed in L.A. and I imagine there will be more.  It’s not certain if this reduction allows other cities in the U.S. to “catch up” to Los Angeles or New York but it does do some leveling. For a city to become an important art center it needs a tremendous amount of support from its citizenry which can come in many forms.  So many cities in the U.S. have great artists but without substantial support through an evolving gallery system, museums, a collector base, sponsorship, grants, significant non-profits, etc., it’s very difficult for those artists to gain visibility. I lived in New York when Los Angeles was still considered a less significant art city. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1985, there’s been an amazing transformation in the art world here.  It takes time, intention and support and that can happen in any city where there is money and serious interest in art.

The current state of art in Los Angeles is much of what I’ve described above however the motion picture and television industry will always come first here and that seems to be because of the tremendous amount of money the industry generates. That said, industry money does find its way into the art world and for that we are grateful.  There are a number of serious magazines in Los Angeles at the moment and many important art writers so the world of art dialogue and criticism is very healthy with diverse voices, but galleries still continue to close perhaps because the collector base is not as vast and focused as it is in New York.

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies outside of your painting and drawing? How do these things relate to your studio practice? Do you find yourself having to enter into the studio out of discipline or inspiration or a mixture of both? What are some of the practical challenges that fine artists have to face inside or outside their studio time? How do you balance your social and personal life with your painting work time?

Lisa Adams: As I’ve mentioned, I’m a birder and love being in nature and traveling. I suppose that can be called a hobby but otherwise everything is art related. I do have a meditation practice but I wouldn’t call that a hobby. Birding, meditation and travel relate directly to my studio practice both in attitude and imagery.

As I get older, I enter the studio more and more out of inspiration. There are still days I’d rather be doing other things like going to the mountains or going to look at the ocean but deadlines and responsibilities keep me on schedule. These past couple of years have been terrifically inspirational and I am very grateful for this. Teaching less and less helps me stay focused on my work. Fortunately my work is selling a fair amount which allows me to stay in the studio and paint.

For me the only practical challenge is finding the money to continue to make art.

A social life is less appealing to me except for the openings of good friends or exhibitions in which I am very interested. I don’t go out nearly as much as in previous years and feel good about that decision.  Dedication to my work is the most important thing. My main focus at this time in my life is to be in service of my work.

qi peng: What are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What things in those shows inspired your painterly eye and imagination?

Lisa Adams: I love the work of Kristen Calabrese. She is a big inspiration and seeing her work in the studio always makes me want to paint better.  Also the work of Lucian Freud, Kiki Smith, Mathew Barney, William Kentridge, John Currin, Susan Rothenberg, Jeff Wall, Robert Gober, Amy Sillman, Llyn Foulkes, David Amico, Tom Wudl, Tomory Dodge, Joshua Aster, Kim Dingle, Samantha Fields, Cole CaseAndre Yi, Marie Thibeault, Joe Biel, Ann Diener and many dead artists such as Max Ernst, Philip Guston, Jay Defeo, Henri Matisse, Van Gogh, William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and so many more.

Most of my reading is non-fiction about birds and animals, science, Buddhism, travel, art and artist biographies and philosophy, especially the writing of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

I used to be a competitive sprinter in my youth and in my thirties and forties continued to run longer distances. I ran for about 30 years but no longer run.

There are so many films that I love but I’ll only list a few:  all films by Werner Herzog particularly “Encounters at the End of the World” and “Lessons of Darkness,” all films by Andrei Tarkovsky particularly “Solaris” and “Stalker” also “Blade Runner,” “Woman in the Dunes,” “The Misfits,” “The Fugitive Kind,” “House of Games,” “Borat,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and many, many documentaries such as “The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ and “The Story of the Weeping Camel.”

Regarding recent exhibitions, the William Kentridge exhibition at SFMOMA just blew my mind. I was very taken with the animated imagery in his video work and in his drawings.  His love of constructivist imagery and the authentic quality of his drawings especially captured my attention.  His work is very unique and it might be because he is South African. It is so “other” than work produced in Los Angeles and New York.

qi peng: Your formal art education was at Scripps College as well as Claremont Graduate University. What were your years of education like? Were there any influential professors and fellow students whose ideas or drive influenced your postmodern and painterly style combining different elements of visual language ranging from urban graffiti to animal imagery? Are there any memorable stories from your studio visits or school days? Is your work influenced by some of the trends happening currently in digital or new media art? Also what accounts for your fascination with birds?

Lisa Adams: My undergraduate work was scholastically very rigorous and heavily foundationed in the Humanities and in the Arts. I spent my junior year studying Art History and Germanistik at the University of Heidelberg during the years of a divided Germany. It was the mid 1970’s and an amazing time to have lived in Europe. As an undergraduate all types of mediums in art making were of interest, but painting always held my attention. My most beloved undergraduate instructor was Paul Darrow who is now 88 years old and still going strong as an artist.  He has since retired from teaching. Paul was responsible for finding a scholarship that would facilitate my going to graduate school.

When I was in graduate school there were almost no painters.  It was the advent of what was called “New Genres” and a time of great experimentation. Painting was of little interest at that time but Tom Wudl who was then teaching at Claremont Graduate University was someone I really related to and learned the most from during those years. Tom taught about things that informed art, his art and art in general and he taught us about how an artist thinks.

There have been so many studio visits in the past 30 years that it all seems like a blur. I do remember having serious studio visits in graduate school.  I was only 23 and 24 at that time and was always very anxious and didn’t say much.

My painting is somewhat influenced by the computer since it is a tool that I regularly use for creating my work, particularly in composing the paintings. Recently I realized that before Photoshop, I used to do the same type of composing but with cut-out pieces of colored paper and tape. Also now when I can’t get back far enough from a large painting I photograph and bring it into the computer to review the composition.

Birds are just one element in my lexicon of imagery but an important one, nonetheless. For me, birds represent freedom and freedom has been at the center of my thinking and seems to have always been the driving force in my life and in my art.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for young emerging artists from BFA or MFA programs who are graduating from their program? Any pitfalls for them to avoid as they search for a way to enter the formal gallery system or to exhibit in non-profit or alternative spaces or museums? What have been your joys and hardships in dealing with the contemporary art world? What have your experiences with Lawrence Asher Gallery and Michael Rosenthal Gallery, both of whom represent you, been like? How have you worked with both spaces to be able to fulfill the vision that you have for the display of your work?

Lisa Adams: Giving advice to newly graduated artists is difficult since my experience is only one experience. One thing that seems to be true in the art world is that everyone’s path and experience is so different and what works for one artist may never work for another.

There seems to be so many tacit and elusive qualities that produce success. Success is, of course, a relative term.

It seems that one of the greatest disservices that the M.F.A. programs purport is that if you do it “right,” or at least the way they tell you to, you can be an art star.  My experience is that it just doesn’t work that way. So many factors go into the art star status and it is truly, for the most part, very unrealistic and if one actually does reach the pitch of art star, then what happens?  It might not be a pretty picture fast forward ten or twenty years. The most important thing is to remain in service of your work and pay attention to your own vision and how to articulate that the very best you can.  Of course an artist must also pay attention to particular art world standards and know that the art world is as conformist as any other world.  It just seems that the rules are not as blatantly stated but they definitely exist and one has got to be aware of them. Also, never underestimate the grace of financial support to an artist and aspects of luck.  Both these elements are crucial to the possibility of success.

The only thing that I’ve relied on is persistence, in the face of tremendous rejection decade after decade.  For every one good hit there’s a hundred negative ones.  An artist who is set on being successful according to their own terms, will just hang in there and do what they can to advance their work and their careers, regardless of the rejection.

The Lawrence Asher Gallery has been very good for me. They treat me exceptionally well and have my best interest in mind.  They’ve supported me in my work for the Riverside Art Museum and have postponed scheduling a solo exhibition until September of 2011, for which I am grateful.

The Michael Rosenthal Gallery is a new gallery to me.  My work so far has only been included in a group exhibition but I really like Michael and Susan Chen, his assistant.  They are very attentive to their artists’ needs and to details.

All of my career I’ve worked with galleries that have supported me in creating work and never dictated what will sell or what they’d like to see me make. I’ve been very lucky in this way and it gives me the freedom and support to do the best I can.

qi peng: Do you have any favorite cuisine or dishes that you enjoy?

Considering that food is essential for the artistic soul, what things do you look for within a daily meal?

Lisa Adams: Unfortunately, I am not a cook so it means eating whatever can be assembled quickly. My favorite food is Indian food but I love Vietnamese and Thai food as well.  I eat very simply, lots of tofu-based dishes.  Simplicity is a theme in my life at this point and is reflected in my environment as much as possible.

qi peng: How do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger worldwide economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work, typically geared for the art fairs, during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America? Do you have any thoughts about the current state of the stock market and its concomitant corruption? Any thoughts on the Obama administration in relation to your viewpoint on history, social identity, and the arts scene on a worldwide scale?

Lisa Adams: As previously mentioned in question #2, the art world went through a fairly sever adjustment in the early 1990’s so I’ve been witness to this before though this round seems more dire.  Just as in the previous time, both artists and gallerists who are not serious, not hard core, seem to fold.  I don’t know markets in other cities as well as I do the Los Angeles art world so I hesitate to speak about the larger art market and the economic impact there. A number of galleries in Los Angeles have already folded and very different sorts of galleries too, some very mainstream and others more marginal.  You are seeing exhibitions that are not as costly to mount, maybe more local work and less imported work, is being shown at important venues.  What’s interesting is that the work being created in Los Angeles is, in every way, competitive with work made in other markets and therefore the quality of exhibitions seem unaffected. Twenty years ago that was not necessarily the case here and it’s very heartening to see.

I could be wrong but it seems that most artists in Los Angeles are always making work that is unique and personal to them and less about the art fair circuit expectation.

For both galleries and non-profits, the game is to “keep your ass low to the ground” as they say. In the early 1990’s, those venues that downsized to smaller spaces and smaller staffs survived. Gallerists showed art in their living rooms and some of those exhibitions spawned some amazing artists that went on to robust careers.  It’s all about intention on the part of exhibition venues as well as on the part of the artists.

It seems that greed has finally shown up in a profound and pervasive way in our culture.  Perhaps it was all very predictable. This culture has been running on complicated and exquisite delusion and here is where we find ourselves.  It’s kind of amazing and really interesting to me.  My life has been affected by the economic crisis but not severely as many people. I have never lived an affluent life and have always had to be very frugal in order to keep making my work. It’s become a way of life and anxiety regarding the topic of cash flow seems normal, so today’s environment feels like more of the same, although it’s obvious that the economic climate is very bad and many people are suffering.

Barack Obama’s election is the only hope we have of changing our situation.  It’s thrilling that he is our President and I support his decisions. My best hunch is that Obama’s awareness of the arts lies mostly in the performing arts and far less so in the visual arts. It would be great if we had someone at the federal level who represented the visual arts. I would love to be that person. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Quincy Jones is going to help the visual arts much.

qi peng: You have taught at various art schools ranging from the University of Southern California to Claremont Graduate University to the Otis College of Art & Design. What is the underlying philosophy behind your teaching? What was a typical day for you while you were teaching classes? Which classes have you taught and what values and themes have you imparted to your students during these years? What was the thrust of each class syllabus that you designed for the students? In what way is teaching a work of art in itself?

Lisa Adams: My absolute best teaching experience was from 1990-1999 at the Santa Monica College of Design, Art and Architecture.  It was a fabulous time for me, the administration and of course the students. Because the institution was an “off-campus” program and offered only a certificate and not a degree, we did not have to abide by a conformist academic system but rather a follow-your-interests type program.  Whatever you were interested in as a teacher you could present to your students and it was fabulous! Though the school only lasted ten years, so many of the students went on to incredible careers.  It was a life-changing experience for almost all that were involved.  The school was the creation of MacArthur Fellow Joan Abrahamson and run by artist Laddie John Dill. It was modeled after the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College, an experimental, interdisciplinary art school founded by in 1933 in Asheville, North Carolina.  We thought of the school as a kind of professional school, teaching young student artists literally how to be professionals as well as how to think about their work in an experimental, sophisticated and individuated way. In 1999 I authored a book along with my students entitled “FM*.” The book was an edited version of two years of assignments that I gave my students. It has since has been used by a number of instructors at other schools.

My underlying philosophy was always to take yourself seriously as an individuated artist and to put your work before anything else because I do believe that is what it takes to advance your practice both in the studio and outside the studio–by outside the studio I mean the career part of ones practice.  Those students who were in a position to do this really benefited by the program. My way was not for everyone certainly, and I was a tough teacher holding students to their commitments. Our group critiques might have lasted as much as six hours at times.

In the nine years I was at SMCDAA I would have to say that this style of teaching was a work of art. Students in my class were given assignments that were based on what I was doing in my own studio at that time.  It was so amazing to watch them work out the same sorts of issues that I was struggling with. Our work together was definitely a bonding experience and I am still in contact with many of my former students.

qi peng: What is your foundation for your philosophy of painting and drawing? How is this manifested within both forms of expression? What research in concept and materials do you complete before you execute a piece? Do you do preliminary sketches or studies before you codify your artwork? In what ways do you explore the conflict between nature and man-made objects, especially within the clash of figurative elements that you present?

Lisa Adams: At the core of my work is the quest to individuate, that is, what makes my thinking and my work unique to me. I have never been a mainstream artist but more of an iconoclast.  It’s less an intention and more an expression of my nature.

I started oil painting officially at age ten but like any other child I’d been drawing and painting since 2 or 3 years old. At age ten I knew that I would be an artist and called myself an artist though I really didn’t know what that meant since there were no artists around. A reproduction of Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” really lit up my mind at that age, then at thirteen I saw the the Eames’ short film “Powers of Ten” and that did it for me. I was on my way and can sincerely say that I never strayed from my desire to be a practicing artist.

I don’t draw as much as I used to and that is something I really would like to change.  Teaching drawing from time to time keeps my perceptual and manual skills honed but don’t use drawing as an expressive tool as much as I’d like to.  I do sketch my ideas and use drawing as visual note taking, but my true love is oil painting.

In the past few years, the computer as become one of my drawing tools.  I have a small Wacom tablet and love the strange and quirky look that I can get with it and use Photoshop as a compositional tool. I take a photo of a painting in process and work with it in the computer.  It’s amazing to me that what I was doing in the past with cut-out paper and tape can now be done so much more efficiently.

For over a decade, I painted abstractly and what that taught me was how to express an implied subject and build a lexicon of formal images that became the visual content.  As the abstract work progressed it inevitably began to bump up against recognizable subject matter that just sort of began to reveal itself.  In this manner, I never had to “think up” something recognizable to paint. All I had to do was follow the paintings along.  I think of myself now as more of a facilitator rather than an initiator. It’s a wild idea. I never really know what a painting is about until some time after it’s completed. It’s important to simply trust the process, remain very present and just love doing the painting part of it.

It seems that elements of both abstraction and representation play in my work and that makes sense to me since I’m very interested in how both co-exist and mostly in a non-combative way. Painting with a roller and painting with a #01 brush are both are so different but so useful. I paint intuitively per my subject, for example, I might paint a luscious rose in an alla prima manner, paint a background with a sponge roller and paint a bird very exactingly with a #01 brush.

qi peng: Do you consider yourself to be a feminist artist? How do you tie in your emotional and spiritual interest within women’s issues into a painting’s composition and subject matter without being didactic? Sometimes your subject matter, which combines animals particularly birds with graffiti, suggests that both man and nature must co-exist in order to fulfill a balance in the universe. What is the zen behind your particular pieces that reflect such an environmentalist’s concern?

Lisa Adams: I don’t think much about being a feminist artist, meaning only that I’m not conscious of or employ feminist issues in a didactic way in my work.  That said, I am a feminist and was reared as a second generation feminist. It seems funny to me now to recall that one of the greatest compliments a female artist could be paid when I was starting my career, was that she “painted like a man.” In order to be taken seriously back then female artists mostly had to be tough, look serious and not capitalize on their physical attributes if they had any. You just couldn’t trade on your looks even if you were good looking.  All that had to be down-played and I felt comfortable with that approach.  It’s so different now and that’s a great relief.

Today my work clearly expresses a female psyche and is based in a feminine experience and I’m very happy about that. It is expressive and emotional and trades on imbuing my subjects with feeling, sincerity and earnestness.  Part of my sincerity comes from my spiritual practice. It would be dishonest to call myself a practicing Buddhist, but I do have a serious meditation practice that absolutely finds its way into my work both visually as well as through notions of discipline, dedication and belief.

Ideas of current environmental concerns found their way to me. I never set out looking for them nor looking to express on their behalf. If I had to declare a Zen attitude in my work this would probably be it.

The natural world has always captured my imagination, however, the fractured interface between the natural world and humans seems to have become the core of my work. In some fashion, the so-called natural elements in my work always look displaced and at the same time their context seems fitting. This interface is even difficult for me to reconcile sometimes but I find it compelling and that’s what keeps me eager to follow the paintings along.

qi peng: Many of your drawings involve gouache, ink, or graphite on paper. Do you have a fascination with Asian art, particularly the delicate watercolors of that culture? In what ways do you try to meld Asian and American viewpoints about nature, humans, and animals into a completed drawing? How would you place your works on paper within the context of your paintings?

Lisa Adams: The small, delicate gouaches are an adjunct to my main practice of oil painting. They began as a challenge to see if I could make a watercolor-type work because it’s such a different skill set  from oil painting. In this way gouache acts more like watercolor, used in a more sheer manner, which requires a more delicate touch. I really like that.

At first, I tried to paint with gouache as I would with oil paint. I learned quickly that that was not going to work. Some time was required to find my way with this delicate medium. I didn’t want to use standard formulaic techniques but rather just keep working until something felt expressive.

It turned out that the gouaches bear resemblance, at least feeling-wise, to an Asian aesthetic which makes sense since I’ve looked at so much Japanese and Chinese ink painting in particular Japanese kachoga genre.  The strength of ink is used in such a variable way, for both its graphic qualities and infinite nuance through wash techniques. That’s what I’m after in these small works on paper–combining both the watercolor-type gouache with the pen and ink drawing.

qi peng: There are some times where you have executed installation art such as your delightful piece entitled “Unearthly Garden of Delight.” What is the story behind such a complex piece that uses real lemons on shelves as part of the work itself? What do you is the tension between the appearance of the portion that reflects the artist’s hand and the found objects?

Lisa Adams: The installation “Unearthly Garden of Delight” has a wonderful back story. It was a work I did as an internet collaboration with Dutch artist Eylem Aladogan.  The exhibition was entitled “Personals” and the concept was created by American curator, John O’Brien and Dutch curator, Theo Tegelaers. Artists from Los Angeles and artists from Holland were asked to write a personals ad. The curators paired an American artist with a Dutch artist through compatible personal ads.  Eylem and I were paired by virtue of our mutual interest in nature and ultimately in domestic gardens.  Via email we would talk about what we were creating each day in our studios over a nine month period.  Neither of us had seen each other’s work until it was exhibited together first in Los Angeles and then later in Hoorn, Holland.  “Unearthly Garden of Delight” was my resulting work.  In Los Angeles I exhibited the work with real lemons and in Holland used vegetables more readily available.

Using real objects in this work made sense because it was more than just a drawing. One part of the work was installed at the floor line and the other above the viewer’s head. It just seemed fitting to include something that was very tangible and human scale against the pure drawn illusion. It also reflected an element of an Angeleno domestic garden. It was an intuitive decision that really added another dimension, literally and conceptually, to the work. It turned out that my Dutch counterpart Eylem Aladogan’s work used the floor entirely as a foundation and also used domestic garden vegetables.  It was a wonderful concept for an international exhibition.  I learned so much and met so many great artists.

qi peng: You have worked as a curator before and co-founded Crazy Space which was an alternative exhibition space in Santa Monica. What is the story behind that adventure? What were some of the challenges and joys of being able to balance your responsibilities as an artist and curator? What were some of the most memorable shows that were featured there and how did those reflect your personal tastes in art?

Lisa Adams: Crazy Space was co-founded with artist Lauren Hartman in 2000.  I co-directed the space in 2000 and 2001 and it was an amazing experience. It was a lot of hard work, I could never have done it alone.  My particular interests within the exhibition program was one of collaborative and experimental work.  It’s nothing I had any previous experience with, having been primarily a studio artist up to that point.  We also enjoyed giving opportunity to artists who would otherwise have very little chance to exhibit their work.

The most successful exhibition I curated was “A Matter of Structure” which was reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. The concept of the exhibition was to invite approximately twenty artists and artisans to come together for a day, meet in the space and bring interesting discarded items and their own discarded art work and use these items to build an obelisque of sorts. It was an amazing effort producing an amazing result and offering a unique experience to all that participated. The tower of stuff and art was lit, had sound and looked bizarre and tentative.  Working with all the artists and watching the seriousness of their intention was just an incredible experience for me. We were all proud of our efforts.

I’ve curated other exhibitions before and since Crazy Space and learned so much from Crazy Space about working directly with artists and understanding the creative process from another perspective.  I’ve never included my own work in exhibitions I’ve curated.  It’s just a personal choice.  I like thinking of the exhibition as my work of art and it would be confusing for me to insert my own work into that process. It’s fascinating working with artists in this manner.

qi peng: What are some of your future projects and upcoming exhibitions that you will be undergoing? What are some potential challenges or past hardships that you have overcome during your studio years or your teaching stint and that you are proud of?

Lisa Adams: At this moment I am extremely fortunate. For the past year I have been working almost exclusively in my studio, teaching very little and doing very few day jobs for money. It makes a huge difference in my practice to be able to be in the studio five or six days a week. I love it and my work is advancing. I just finished a public art project for the Department of Cultural Affairs in Los Angeles. It was at the new Fire Station in Watts. Currently, I am a finalist for a Metro project, the new Silver Line, here in Los Angeles and I will know at the beginning of June if my work has been selected.

Additionally, I am creating two large paintings for an exhibition at the Riverside Art Museum in mid November, entitled “Edenistic Divergence,” curated by Andi Campognone-Couwenberg. These are the largest paintings I’ve ever made, one is 5 x 12 ft and the other is 6 x 10 ft.  It’s a very challenging experience creating such large work, so physical as well as focused.

In 2010, I am doing a solo exhibition in San Francisco at the Michael Rosenthal Gallery and in 2011 an exhibition at Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles.

Finally there is a possibility of doing a two-person exhibition at the California African American Museum in 2010.

The most difficult thing for me is to generate enough cash flow. Though ten paintings sold from my last show at Lawrence Asher it is still a struggle to keep enough money coming in but I do whatever it takes to stay in the studio as much as I possible, even if it means not having a social life. Having fallen in love with my work, it comes before everything else and I am proud of maintaining a continuous studio practice 30 years out of graduate school, regardless of where or how I’ve lived and without the support of family advantage. That said, I’ve had an incredible career which includes a Fulbright, a number of international artist-in-residencies, and many national and international exhibitions.

qi peng: Before we embark on the last question, thanks very much for your time. Is there anything else that you wish to share with fans and viewers of your artwork, your classes, or your curated projects?

Lisa Adams: Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview!

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my work and believed in me at various times in my career.  I could never have accomplished all that I have without the support of friends and acquaintances, my students, fans, many arts professionals and my dharma teacher, the late, venerable Dr. Ed Wortz. I am deeply grateful.

It’s been an amazing and profound ride so far and I hope it continues. I’d like to make some really great paintings before I exit the planet and am working toward that goal.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 13, 2009 at 6:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. thank you for writing about Lisa. Please note that you referred to my gallery as: Michael Rosenfeld gallery when in fact it is Michael Rosenthal gallery.

    michel rosenthal

    May 15, 2009 at 3:05 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: