Dennis Adams

Galerie Lumen Travo

Dennis Adams creates a dialectic between covering and exposing, between interior and exterior in this exhibition entitled “Vanities.” With the use of mirror and light, the back of the work Double Vanity, 1991, recalls a makeup table in a dressing room. The large, central mirror reflects the Stedelijk Museum across the street from the gallery, as well as the person in front of it. Thus it plays on the viewer’s vanity and his wishful projections, and on Adams’ own deceptive integration of the museum into the piece or his presumptuous goal of having the piece in the museum. This mirroring also reveals the mediation and close relationship between the two institutions, and the interchangeability of inside and outside. The front of the work presents a triptych. In the middle of this construction there is a large documentary photograph of Adams’ personal surroundings; we see the view from his New York studio, a Chinese textile factory, and an anonymous worker sewing under the harsh light of a sweatshop. This documentation of a moment is not so much a fragment of universal history as it is part of a personal biography that exposes the universal and the concealed in the everyday reality of our collective memory. Double Vanity reflects, on the one hand, the subjective reference to humanity and environment, and, on the other, society as objective reality. Like a literary point of view in fiction, the challenge to subjective or objective identity is contingent on transparency, prospect, angle, and context.

Arcadian Blind, 1991, is Adams' design for a pavilion at the exhibition “Art for a Natural and Artificial Environment.” The scale model for it that was exhibited here refers to the fantasy architecture of 18th-century follies. Adams has not built a rustic, idyllic double as a mirror image of historical memory; rather, he employs functionalist severity. The exterior of this pavilion, consisting of three overlapping triangles and accessible from all three sides, is concealed by a hedge. The interior contains three illuminated photographs behind smoked glass, and these three pictures, in turn, form a smaller triangle. Sequentially, the light boxes show the decay of a low-income housing project: only the ruins remain. While ruins were romantic in the 18th century, Adams transposes their meaning onto our urban reality. As an interesting folly between fiction and reality, this pavilion presents an idyll on the exterior, a mirage that contrasts with the decay represented in the interior. And it reveals the metaphoric decay of earlier ideals.

––Frank-Alexander Hettig

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.