Weight of Culture

Adam Helms

In Residence: Sep 16 – Nov 17, 2014

Exhibition: Nov 13, 2014 – Jan 18, 2015

Why did you decide to build walls and break the gallery up into three conjoined spaces?

Initially I knew I wanted to use the existing architecture of the gallery to create separate spaces for the work, and attempt to guide the viewer around walls in either of two directions, so that the works on paper would be hidden upon first entering the space. The double-sided wall allowed for a particular experience of pure color and minimalism, as each alternate side has a good deal of black and white images to digest. Also, there is a formal relationship to the materiality of the wood to the works on paper (photogravures, photopolymers, and the gouache works), on each side of the gallery. As the work in this show is in many ways a series of references and symbols, the associations among all the pieces start to have connections within the show and bounce off each other.

Why did you use this specific color scheme throughout the exhibition?

The colors I use are the standard prism utilized in Technicolor. As much of the images I reference are from television and film history, I’ve started to use this color scheme as a sort of signifier in itself within my bodies of work at the moment. The sides of the gallery with only the raw wood (and wood patterning) are the absence of this signifier—a different kind of psychological zone. And these zones are where the images start to interrelate as sets of narratives. So these colors are as much a symbolic device as a conceptual strategy of separation.

How do these image-based works function in terms of narrative?

The image based pieces—the photogravures—are inspired from an art historian named Aby Warburg (1886-1929), who devised a view of art history based in displaying images of repeating themes he saw in the work of Antiquity and The Renaissance. One particular theme he focused on was that of pathos and trauma in sculptures, prints and paintings from this particular period. He called these “Pathos Fields.” In this ‘Warburgian’ way, I approach my source material with a similar guise. Although for me, the cultural materials I draw from are more broad and from a variety of time periods. Most importantly, I am interested in how the viewer will be inclined to draw narratives within each of my own pathos fields. And there are no specific narratives I am seeking to create, only the impulse of the viewer to possibly seek one for themselves. In this way each image, or series of images, can carry a certain ‘weight’ to the relationship the viewer brings to the gallery.

How do you relate personally to these images you use?

The images come from an archive of images that is continually expanding. They are found on the internet, from film stills, scans, and found materials. Most of them—and many that
comprise this body of work at Artpace—are from films book materials that have significance for me. One is an image from The Saga of the Swamp Thing, that I used to read in my youth. Others are from films that are important to me. Other images have symbolic importance to themes that I think about and apply to my experience or relationship to the world. There are emotional connections and narratives that drive me to make the particular assemblages of materials and images I use, but also I see the work as having more of an autonomy to undo itself after it gets made. There is a worldview or ideology that perhaps unconsciously drives me (an impulse that has become part of my practice to utilize) that unifies all the work in an exhibition. The process itself of sorting through the archive and creating the work is the most interesting part to me; the meaning of the individual pieces can change for me over time.


Adam Helms

New York, New York, USA

Adam Helms, a self-described artist-as-ethnographer, explores the psychology and iconography of radical politics and subcultures. Using a variety of media—ranging from photography, drawing, sculpture, and found images—the New York-based artist engages the viewer with archetypal representations of identity, symbolism and history. His previous awards and residencies include the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant NY, NY (2010), the Chinati Foundation Marfa, TX (2007), the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Art Grant Award NY, NY (2006), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award NY, NY (2005), and the Robert Schoelkopf Traveling Fellowship New Haven, CT (2003).

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Mika Yoshitake

Washington, DC

Mika Yoshitake is Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. At the Hirshhorn, she has curated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (2017), Shana Lutker: Le ‘NEW’ Monocle, Chapters 1-3 (2015-16), Le Onde: Waves of Italian Influence (2015), Days of Endless Time (with Kelly Gordon), Speculative Forms, and Gravity’s Edge (all 2014); Sitebound: Photography from the Collection and Dark Matters (with Melissa Ho in 2012), and coordinated Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn (2017), Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950 (2013) and Ai Weiwei: According to What? (2012). A specialist on postwar Japanese art, Mika earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from UCLA, which culminated in the AICA-USA award-winning exhibition and book, Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha (2012). From 2010-2011, she served as the curatorial liaison for the Guggenheim’s Lee Ufan retrospective, and was the project coordinator of Takashi Murakami retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles from 2005-2009. She has published in Artforum, Art in America, and Exposure and in numerous exhibition catalogues including Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (Hirshhorn, 2017), Kishio Suga: Situations (Hangar Bicocca Pirelli, 2016), Kishio Suga (Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum, 2015), Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place (Dia Art Foundation, 2014); Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-garde (MoMA, 2012); Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity (Guggenheim, 2011); Target Practice: Painting Under Attack, 1949–78 (Seattle Art Museum, 2009); and © MURAKAMI (MOCA, 2007).949–78 (Seattle Art Museum, 2009); and © MURAKAMI (MOCA, 2007).

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