Adam Straus: Oncoming
Through April 15, 2018
Grenning Gallery, Sag Harbor, New York
From the gallery:
Adam Straus is known for his majestic and luminous depictions of the sublime, which are often saturated with a concern about social and environmental issues. His penetrating dark humor can transport the viewer to post-apocalyptic worlds and often offers a wry observation on how humans have altered the natural landscape.
True to Grenning Gallery aesthetics, Straus is dedicated to a highly refined craft in his contemporary realist paintings, yet he overlays a deeply personal social commentary. Straus also merges his high level of craft with modern experimentation, inspiring a dialogue on political, environmental, and sociological issues.
For instance, his recent “Old News” series is painted with a skilled dexterity yet mounted on newspaper, which is then archivally affixed onto the canvas. Straus admits that this series was inspired by the 2016 presidential election.
“I read the New York Times daily and have for years,” Straus says. “The paintings were begun as an escape route of this bad news and grew into an interest on contrasting the timeless with the day-to-day events of humanity.”
Straus emanates a more whimsical philosophy with his second painting in this series. He notes “Old News; In the Garden” (at top) was meant to convey life and a crazy kind of growth coming out of bad news. “It is my belief that how we deal with our place in nature and our effect on the environment is the most important issue of our time,” he says. By overlaying a colorful, wild garden on the troubling headlines, Straus creates a sense of hope. In the darkest of days, the natural world will maintain its lively light. However, within that light lives natural evils. For instance, the focal point of the painting is a large, white daisy in full bloom. Yet just above the flower, a large mosquito pierces the canvas, in an attempt to devour life from within.
Straus’s concern for the environment carries on throughout his oeuvre. For instance, in his recent “Glitch” series of paintings, Straus’s commentary is obvious and well-defined. He is noticeably interested in the boundless accessibility we currently have to otherwise remote like Antarctica, as a result of modern technology.
Straus’s process includes taking a photograph of an Arctic landscape, and then running it through an iPhone app called “Glitch.” This allows technology to distort, and literally make its mark on the photo. Straus then paints these technological distortions onto his classical landscape, and he breaks the plane of the canvas by painting on the frame. This accentuates the power of the hand of man and mankind on nature.
In “Fireflies,” Straus’s socio-environmental commentary is less obvious. The picture depicts a grassy meadow at twilight, mystically spotted with fireflies, beneath an open, cream-colored sky. Straus has not distorted the image, or utilized unusual materials; he has simply painted a beautiful landscape and has omitted any sign of human intervention, recalling the tradition of the Hudson Valley painters. Even the romantic spectacle of sporadic spots of light exist because of the natural phenomenon that is bioluminescence.
Straus contemporizes this classically painted landscape by encasing it in his own hand-crafted lead frame. This symbolizes man’s intervention and containment of nature’s limitlessness. Even though this chemical element is highly toxic, lead is often used by humans, in order to facilitate industrial progress — a seemingly top priority for many.