Surfing the Paintings of Adam Caldwell

A detail from "Archery Empty Kingdom."

A detail from “Archery Empty Kingdom.”

The exhibit is called Mindscape for a reason. Viewing Adam Caldwell’s paintings at Downtown’s Brett Wesley Gallery is like flipping through TV channels—after-images layering under new images until several are backlogged on your mental clipboard. The California artist’s global jumble contains screen captures of movie trailers, travel shows, war zones, commercials and documentaries. The mixture of Western iconography, Hollywood, consumerism and politics brings to mind the art of James Rosenquist. But Caldwell extends the visual vocabulary to include Eastern ideas and conflicts.

In “Europa,” the artist studio and the warzone collide. Marble busts, power cords and clay pots litter the floor. Soldiers—excerpted from a historical painting—rest in the back corner. A glamorous woman stares into the distance, while the pained visage of an old woman questions the viewer. The work references the volatile relationship between West and East.

“Archery 1 & 2,” collages the image of Japanese archers with a painted fragment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 photo of Joseph Rakes, armed with an American flag, lunging forward menacingly. Like the tension of the drawn bows, the tension running up and down the historical timeline reverberates into the present.

A central figure in “Cogito Ergo Sum” blurs the line between the Catholic Madonna and a Middle Eastern burka while also invoking surrealist René Magritte. The setting is a cluttered war-battered hallway, and it corresponds with the complex task of sorting out an identity. It’s a declaration of existence followed by self-interrogation—I am. But what am I?

Caldwell works are built up one visual element at a time. Space and shape supersede content, which provides an element of serendipity. In the process of gradually piecing together random groupings of images, epiphanies emerge from unexpected juxtapositions … Just like when channel surfing.


Through May 30 at Brett Wesley Gallery, 1025 S. First St., Suite 150, 702-433-4433.

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