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From Mediocre to Meteoric
A Review of Ruddy Adames’ “Aetus” at Verlaine
110 Rivington Street
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Written by Erin Mallay

Images complements of Amp3
Opposite - "Spine"



Ruddy Adames’ “Aetus” at Verlaine

Considering the internet as information of the instantly-gratified variety, does the prevalence of internet enhance artistic experiences, or does it ultimately rob audiences of the quality of the work? The answer obviously depends on what kind of art we are talking about; as art has moved away from a chunky physicality toward much more technologically savvy manifestations, work done with digital imaging, digital film and internet based projects are most times experienced best via a computer screen.

However, to view the work of Ruddy Adames in this manner is to do a grave injustice to both the artist and the viewer. As projected by an illuminated monitor, the Gieger/Dalí cyborg chimeras floating in a dreamlike desertscape look like any of a million fantasy sci-fi illustrations saturating the internet. But to see them in person is a much more singular experience, and I think inadvertently opens a rather interesting door into discussion of method and message in art.

"Sample 4"

Pretensions of high art aside, I am a sci-fi nerd, so I agreed to attend Adames opening at Verlaine on Rivington on Tuesday night because I’m a sucker for cyborgs. I can’t help it, I just love the look of cold shiny metal laced with flesh, of mechanical technology joined with the sensually organic--or, you know, hot naked chicks. Maybe it’s a Freudian attraction to the uncanny, or the eroticized violence of a masculinated technology forced onto a feminine body, or I’m just a nerd, but really, who cares? It might have been a familiar subject matter—and an open vodka bar—that attracted me, but it was the exquisite craftsmanship that captivated me.

Adames’ paintings looked pretty chic on the walls of the East Village lounge/bar. Lyrical, figurative representations contemplating a human destiny of limitless progress is pretty edgy subject matter for lounge walls, but the style is the sugar that helps the concept go down. Using a surrealist tradition of super-smooth realism tinged by absurdities of dreamlogic, Adames harnesses a language of easily read symbols and employs them to trigger any fantasies and anxieties his audience may have about The Future.

"Sample 5"

There are a lot of exposed spines in Adames’ paintings, juxtaposed with gears and wires and other familiar mechanical representations. Adames loves details of anatomy and their similarities to and distinctions from the technology created as prosthetics enhancing that anatomy. But like any good surrealist, nothing should be taken literally; where Dalí had his crutches, Adames has his gears.

Adames explained to me that a gear never rotates backwards; even when a car goes in reverse, there is nothing in the engine that is turning backwards. A gear represents constant forward movement, suggesting an ever-present current of progress. While human bodies will never sport chunky metal gears, but the coupling of the iconography of a gear with the soft, malleable flesh of the human form resonates just enough.

All that said, I must admit that it is not a throwback to surrealism that makes Adames’ work interesting. It is rather his construction, execution that sets him apart from sci-fi mediocrity (in all its beauteous glory.) He is an artist of a different caliber. To look at his work one couldn’t help but notice a compulsively clean line of an architect or engineer, so it is not surprising to discover that he has degrees in both.

What is a surprise is his lack of institutional artistic training. Despite an almost extinct tradition of apprenticeship, Adames studied art since the age of six with a painter friend of the family. Although he is strikingly young—he still has a few years to go till thirty—his work demonstrates a mastery of medium that only comes with decades of intimacy.

Oil paints are hard to work with; the medium requires a discernment of chemistry, an aptitude for foresight and organized planning, and most of all, incredible patience. The all too familiar look of oil paintings—the smooth and luminescent surface—is a result of layers upon layers of paint—an effect unique to the medium; not even a stellar airbrusher can produce quite the same look. But it’s not just that kind of patience that makes it challenging: in order to really get the material to do what you want, to serve you instead of it keeping you at its mercy, that kind of mastery requires decades of practice. In the last hundred years, oil painting has become a less popular medium for artists precisely because of this nature; it is hard to teach because it takes way more than four years to learn so it doesn’t contribute to too many B or MFA’s anymore, especially while there are so many new, exciting, cheap and easy to use materials available every day.

So, isn’t it curious that before Adames commits his imagery of technologically conditioned future to canvas, he uses the alchemy of the Old Masters, crushing pigment into powder and mixing it into oil?

Adames told me he wasn’t interested in painting things that happened, in things that are real. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he attested. But imagination without knowledge is untamed, wild and chaotic—undeliverable information. There are lots of other, more trendy mediums Adames could have chosen for his work, but it is the relationship between the one he did choose and what he said with it that distinguishes it.

"Aetus" will show at Verlaine through June 18th. Verlaine is located at 110 Rivington Street (between Ludlow & Essex) and is open from 5PM-4AM.
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