Yura Adams at Olympia Gallery

Installation view, Yura Adams: Warm, Dark and Roaring at Olympia Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Olympia Gallery.

Yura Adams: Warm, Dark and Roaring

Olympia Gallery

October 27 through December 17, 2022

By JONATHAN GOODMAN, November 2022

Based in Great Barrington, in the western part of Massachusetts, Yura Adams makes slightly idiosyncratic paintings that at first seem to owe their energies to abstraction alone. But, given a closer look, they reflect her immediate landscape: the Williams River and the beginnings of the Berkshires. Her works are full of patterns, forms fitting into each other much like a puzzle, and, sometimes, unusual outlines that complicate the compositions. Different designs, variously colored, crowd in on each other. They are usually organic in shape, and often look like palimpsests; earlier layers subtly make their way through later ones. “Warm, Dark and Roaring” shows how an artist surrounded by the countryside can make sophisticated works of art, which integrate an understanding of the landscape with a developed reading of late abstraction. In this way, the paintings remind us that abstraction has often drawn from nature (we remember the drawings and late paintings of Arshile Gorky), and the figurative elements suggested in her work cannot fully exist without the benefit of non-objective form.

Yura Adams, The Earth Warms Before We Do, 2022. Ink and acrylic on fabric and mylar, 30 x 30 x .5 in. Courtesy of the artist and Olympia Gallery.

In Adams’ mixed-media work View from the Bottom of the Pond (2022), the right third of the composition is taken over by blue sky and light clouds. Two streaks, greenish yellow, run upward to the top and right edge of the painting. In the middle is an inky lozenge, backed by gestural abstract forms, while the right displays a horizontally slatted green pole rising from bottom to top. Behind the pole is a darker green passage that fills half the picture plane, and on the left is a fully abstract element vertical in nature but hard to describe. The piece is not a direct depiction of nature, but its emphasis on a green hue and its organic forms suggest an underwater world with the heavens above. The Earth Warms Before We Do (2022) is a fine work best described as a collection of ribbon forms, white in the middle and yellow on the left and a variegated green and brown strip on the right. A black stripe lies underneath these forms, with a tan vertical band occurring as the left background, a gray rectangle in the middle, and two columns, slate blue and pea green, decorated with random black lines on the right. The title is whimsical, but it feels like it is also a metaphysical statement.

Yura Adams, Trace of the Black-Billed Cuckoo, 2022. Ink and acrylic on fabric and mylar, 78 x 45 x .25 in. Courtesy of the artist and Olympia Gallery.

Adams’ more exploratory interests are evident in the unusual outline of Trace of the Black-Billled Cuckoo (2022). Its biggest part is a vertical  column, made up of differing elements: in the middle, a black-and-white panel, and above and below light colored (mostly yellow) shapes, some with lines covering the form. At the head of the column the shape turns a bit to the left, overhanging the base covered with black graffiti, which also extends to the left. The rationale for this work, which feels nearly like a low relief, seems purely intuitive, driven by the pirate motivation of the artist. Yet the title is highly specific, referring to an actual bird. Here Adams’s gift for abstraction is supported by her experience of nature. The abstraction beckons to a more recently developed style in art than the figurative elements we would expect from the title. But the tension between the overt abstraction of the artist’s design and the bird she is referring to results in a binding of impulse and intention. This is key, I think, to the way her art works. Her sharing of insights and styles results in a mixture of effects that is original. It is rare to find a successful merger between an abstract outlook and a study of nature, but Adams does it. WM

Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications. 


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