Lisa Adams, "Toffle's House," 2017

Lisa Adams, Toffle’s House, 2017, oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″

Artillery Magazine


Lisa Adams – Petrichor

By Ezrha Jean Black

March 16, 2017

Petrichor’ was a word I was unfamiliar with until Lisa Adams used it as the title of her current show at CB1. It apparently refers to the smells of drying earth, grasses, and atmosphere following the first rainstorms after a long period of warm or dry weather. I always knew the moistened earth threw off a lot of ozone and various phenols and pyrazines; but it makes sense there should be a special term for what follows the extended drought we continue to suffer through. Adams’ work has always reflected an acute sensitivity to the physical environment – both the macrocosmic view and its moment-to-moment experiential aspect. But above all she follows her own muse; and language – the poetry of dreams and conscious image-crafting, the precise description and definition of observable phenomena, and expression (including mathematical) of form – are all central to her process. The paintings in the show are both smaller and somewhat more loosely handled than in the large works she is known for. She is clearly moving in an abstract, metaphorical direction with the work. Somnolence (2016) is almost a cutaway out of her dream state – the subject’s back to us opening into a wall of drawers or planters, evocative of Magritte, but set in a tondo itself floating in an almost generic landscape/skyscape backdrop. A thick red bar almost dead center screams like an alarm. Elsewhere she similarly cuts away from conventional and surrealistic pictorial tropes (e.g., the window with reveal; discontinuities of subject, placement; the floating or isolated element – especially structural). But those drawer-planters hint at what follows. Adams approaches, in a sense ‘opening drawers,’ extracting their contents, and foregrounding them into abstract device. It doesn’t always work: the freeway ‘lemniscation’ of L.A. threw those sorts of curves at us long ago – but maybe that’s half the point. Toffle’s House (2017) floats a weather balloon into jigsaw puzzle sea/storm skies, suggesting we’re not likely to find shelter from the storms, geophysical, cultural or political to come any time soon – that alarm again. (In another painting, Adams, in a self-portrait, silently ‘screams.’) You may or may not be looking for a ‘Moominmamma’ (I am); either way we might take a moment to enjoy the late winter petrichor — and Adams’ terrific show.


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