David Adamo


Left: David Adamo, Untitled (column #3), 2010, wood beam, wood shavings, 118 x 7 x 5”. Right: David Adamo, MUSEUM MUSEUM (Solari di Udine) Museum of Modern Art, New York, Thursday, September 16th, 2010 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., performance view.

Recently featured in the Whitney Biennial and “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1, the Berlin-based artist David Adamo is known for his proplike wooden sculptures and seemingly violent installations. His latest solo exhibition opens at FRI ART: Centre d’Art Contemporain in Fribourg, Switzerland, on November 19.

WOOD IS A COMPLEX MATERIAL. I feel like a total beginner when I work with it. There’s probably a lifetime’s worth of learning to be done about the material and its behavior, particularities, varieties, and everything else. Maybe it’s a kind of knowledge you develop over time.

People have called my sculptures violent, but I don’t necessarily think about aggressive things when I’m in the studio . . . although I guess I do work myself into a sort of frenzy. I start out listening to some very soft music, usually some classical stuff, and as my thoughts progressively get going, I’ll begin to listen to something harder. Lately, I’ve been trying to teach myself this style of dancing called hakken, to Gabber music; I jump around the studio at about 200 beats per minute. When I feel good and ready, I chop the wood. I usually work around it in a circle. As my sculptures have gotten bigger, the music has gotten harder. I mean, it’s all very heavy—heavy material and heavy tools––so I can only do it for thirty minutes or so, and then have to regroup and relax and rest and do it again.

The new pieces are more abstract and definitely more physical. The past work always connected to some kind of figurative object––a hammer, a baseball bat, a cane. The latest sculptures are more like construction beams that have been whittled down. I suppose these bigger works are like putting a magnifying glass onto those smaller sculptures, or being able to walk inside a different environment with more material intensity, since the wood is much more dense in the room. The sculptures in this show will be made with the largest chunks of wood I’ve used so far. I went to a local mill and chose ten or so pieces. Some will reach to the ceiling. There’ll be a variety of sizes and shapes. So there are always two parts to these sculptures—the thing that’s there, in this case construction beams, and what’s lying on the ground. And for me, the stuff on the ground is evidence. I see my feelings and emotions when I look at those chips. And now that I’ve done so many of these sculptures, I have a large archive of them. When you look at the chips you can also see the other small things that were swept in, like cigarette butts or candy wrappers or whatever else was in my studio or the gallery. I can always tell where I was or where they were made from the garbage in the pile.

I tend to think about my sculptures being more like performances, and my performances being more like sculptures. In my latest series of performances, I stand and look at something for a long period of time. The most recent one was at MoMA in the design section, where I stared at an Italian-made flight board. It took me a while to find a place to stand and the right work to look at. The board seemed poetic in a sense, because it’s just flipping time. And so the installations are kind of like performances without the performer, and the performances I do are more like performances without the audience. I want to keep removing certain elements from both and see what happens.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler