Jamie Adams References Monumental History Painting

by Roxanne GoldbergPosted on

American artist Jamie Adams paints the human form with the expertise of an European Old Master. His rendering of musculature and gradation of skin tone is exacting and hyperrealistic. However, there is something askew in the way the necks of his figures sometimes turn too far — as if snapped by an unknown force — and stomachs appear to bulge and contract to unnatural degrees. The distortions to which Adam subjects his characters, and their simultaneously alluring and repelling effects, are similar to the ways in which John Currin manipulates his female figures. The uncanny resemblance is likely no accident, as Adams and Currin are contemporaries of one another. Born within one year of each other, Adams and Currin are both BFA graduates of Carnegie Mellon University.

While Currin’s most obvious historical reference is the Northern Renaissance, Adams draws more widely from monumental history paintings stretching from the Italian Renaissance to the academic painting tradition of the 19th century. Both artists are noted for their peculiar methods of blending traditional styles with pop aesthetics and cinematic tropes to create distinctly contemporary artworks. Adams’ oeuvre includes: Jeannie Big Bed 4, a surrealist tumble of falling women, in which Adams inserts a classic fruit still-life amidst the chaos; Niagara Down, reminiscent of the doom in Delacroix and Gericault’s 19th century compositions; and Niagra Preg, in which a very pregnant young woman holds a miniature illuminated Book of Hours, a devotional book typically gifted to virginal women in Medieval Europe. While each of these works includes references to objects specific to distinct places and times, they all share markedly contemporary elements that help heighten the drama of works to cinema(or reality TV)-quality.

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