New York

Mac Adams

112 Greene Street

Upon encountering the Conceptual dilemma, photographers divided into two camps—the photographer as artist versus the artist as photographer. In the former, the results of technology (the finesse of the print, for example) take precedence, and familiar pictorial issues are perpetuated. In the latter, photography has been forced to address “hard art” problems, including those raised by the Conceptual movement. Ragtag names have been applied to this effort—photographic Conceptualism, post-Conceptual Photography, Story Art, Narrative Art. These nicknames cover the photographic work of John Baldessari, Roger Cutforth, Peter Hutchinson, Bill Beckley, Mac Adams, and James Collins, among others. Collins, a painter turned photographer (as is most often the case), first pointed to the breach between photography as art and art as photography. His sensitivity to this issue has caused him to cease writing and to continue instead as an artist in this mode.

Mac Adams (discussed by Collins in Artforum, January, 1974) continues to point up the dilemma of the artist as photographer. One work, for example, The Predicament, depicts the artist awaiting his muse in several places—at his littered desk, before a television set, staring out the window—ironically parodying the frustration of not having a proper hard art subject. Adams favors two- or three-part narratives: 1) a hand places poison in a cocktail; 2) four people are seen drinking cocktails; or: 1) through binoculars, a voyeur observes; 2) a couple making love on a landing; 3) the voyeur eavesdrops on the couple as they converse later in a cafe; or: 1) a gloved hand filches a bracelet; 2)a young woman converses with a young man while wearing the bracelet.

At times the narrative sequence is reversed: 1) an accidentally overturned tray of food on the floor, and in its midst a black box; 2) the artist passing beneath a shelf carrying a tray, and above a black box toppling down. The first image in Circumstantial Evidence is that of a milk-splattered mess on the floor; in the second a contented cat purrs on a chair.

The photograph as such counts for little with Adams; that it might be a technically fine print is incidental. What does count is the enlightenment, the information that explains the meaning of the relationship between two images. His art is established not only by images, but by thought processes experienced in time—the time and thought it takes to grasp the often sinister logic that brackets the images together.

Robert Pincus-Witten