By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Secondary artifacts or not, the Flights of Fancy wardrobe is extravagantly visual and conceptually quirky, approximating a postapocalyptic cargo cult emulating the wardrobe found in a faux-hippie ’70s Broadway musical (get Kevin Costner on the phone!). The costumes’ sheer festivity may seem out of keeping with the austerity of their underlying conceptual formulae, but it is consistent with Adams’ earlier work: The bone deeds came with backlit X-rays; the sex calls were translated into small and wonky soft geometric sculptures sewn from raw canvas and dental floss; her somewhat self-parodying Blood Consumption (1999) portrayed each of the vampire-artist’s donors with 5-foot-high photographic studio portraits. The ambivalent and awkward incorporation of decoration, craft, self-expression and similar compromising impurities has been a consistent hook throughout Adams’ career.
Hooks are catchy but also hurty. As sensually gratifying as her works’ visual elements may be, Adams sees them as embodiments of the contingencies of their creation: “I really like the idea of making something that leaves nothing behind — almost like a modern dancer or a chef or musician. But at some point, every time I go into a project with that environmental-recycling idea, I reach the limitations of what I can do just using recycling, and I find myself using just as much new stuff. You realize pretty quickly that you’re as addicted to petroleum products as the next guy. It also makes you realize why corporations have such a hard time making significant changes.”
The political implications of Adams’ work — issues of class, gender and globalization, as well as broader anthropological concerns with taboos, stigma, consensus and authoritarianism, and an unavoidable critique of the art world’s über-materialism — seem to arise incidentally, alongside the humor and aesthetics, from the artist’s stubborn willingness to try to make do with less. If it were actually possible to erase your carbon footprint or dematerialize the art object, China Adams would be out of work. But instead of giving up in despair or blithely proclaiming, “Mission accomplished,” she continues to wrangle her poetic performative ethics into imperfect lumps of physical reality — the stuff that dreams are made of.
CHINA ADAMS: FLIGHTS OF FANCY | Steve Turner Contemporary | 6026 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. | May 31-June 28, 2008 | Opening reception Sat., May 31, 6-9 p.m. | (323) 931-3721 or www.steveturnercontemporary.com