Art & Life with Jonathan Adolphe
Voayage ATL / June 26, 2018
Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Adolphe.
Jonathan, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I studied theater design at New York University, but always wanted to be a painter. I was drawn to make a hybrid work of both painting and sculpture. My first solo show in New York was abstract paintings covered in sand. My second solo show in New York was paintings on chalkboards with texts. I’ve had one man shows in Zurich, Tokyo and Istanbul. Afterwards I felt stuck; an artist’s block had come over me. So, I turned my attention to raising my daughter and focusing on developing her artistic talents. My daughter Julia Adolphe is now a successful contemporary classical composer commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and others.
When I returned to my work, I started painting portraits on wax. Chrissie Iles, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, awarded me 1st Prize for a triptych. A year later, a tornado hit my studio and ripped the roof off. I lost 20 years of work. This crisis, while difficult at the time, was a blessing in disguise. With nothing left to lose, I turned to urethane and fiberglass. These were materials I always longed to work with because of their possible translucency. However, the toxicity of these materials made me leery. My solution was to work at a foundry – casting my images in urethane and embedding them beneath the surface. I finish my paintings in my studio with spray paint and airbrush. This current series of paintings is three years old. I feel I’ve found my voice.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My paintings are informed by a dialog with abstract art and graffiti writing. My paintings are drawn with powdered pigment dropped by hand onto a table top. A fiberglass veil is placed over it. Clear or tinted urethane is poured over this arrangement and squeegeed flat. This creates air bubbles that pop, leaving beautiful craters that dot the surface like a constellation. I fill in some of these craters with an eye dropper full of color. The final step is to paint the exterior or the skin of the painting with spray paint and airbrush.
My paintings have an interior and an exterior. The image is preserved beneath the surface. A thin translucent membrane separates the fragile interior from the coarse skin shielding it. The scarred, pockmarked skin acts as a protective barrier from the outside world. The works are a casting of the fragility of life, the fragility of feelings.
This interior is gently sealed off, partially obscured. It is a sacred space inviting and thwarting intimacy. The translucent membrane simultaneously reveals, as it conceals. It is an image as metaphor for not being able to fully know another; for imperfectly seeing and being seen.
My painting is a helpless statement, one that was given me to ply. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. The necessity of expressing these guarded feelings, led me to gravitate towards invoking natural phenomena with translucent qualities; fog, mist, clouds, water and ice. Like an undiscovered creature embedded in ice, the paintings offer a reveal.
What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
At times being alone with my paintings and listening to music in my studio can be quite lovely. Ideally, the point of painting is to reach a community of people who care about contemporary art. Trading studio visits, attending openings and Instagram helps build this community. The artist’s job is to find one’s personal voice and vision. The more personal and intimate, paradoxically, the more universal that voice can be.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be seen in private collections, Instagram, my website and my Brooklyn, New York studio. Recently I hosted a Frog and Scorpion performance, with dancer/choreographer Coco Karol and composer Sxip Shirey. Coco was painted to glow with glow in the dark paint to match my phosphorescent paintings. This was the first in a series of collaborations I am planning. There has been interest expressed in having some of my paintings displayed outdoors in public spaces. I am currently looking for gallery representation and encouraging visits to my studio in order to find new people to work with.