Adam Fowler

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Two words describe the weather on the night of Adam Fowler's opening at Margaret Thatcher Projects: Cold.

I'm sorry, I lost a word there because my face froze. It was so cold people were cuddling up with witches' teats to keep warm. Still, there was a healthy turnout at Adam's show.

Adam Fowler, Untitled (64 layers), 2008, graphite on paper, hand cut and layered, 5.5x8 inches

Adam Fowler, Untitled (64 layers), 2008, graphite on paper, hand cut and layered, 5.5x8 inches

When last we saw Adam he was doing pretty much the same thing he's doing now: Drawing lots of loops and curves in graphite (that's pencil to you and me), cutting out the white paper in between, and stacking the results in layers. The final works are somewhere between drawings and sculptures. They're elegant, minimalist, and, all in a group, let's face it, not very exciting. Individually taken they're lovely little works, although they're more reliquaries for obsession than beautiful objects. I like them better when he switches it up a little. For example, in the pictured piece, in the upper right you can see a few loops that curve more tightly than the others. I like that.

Adam's only real change from three years ago that I can see is now some of the pieces are laid flat on plinths slightly over waist height. I think this is an excellent improvement. One of the problems with Adam's work is it doesn't work at all from a distance; as you approach them, from across the room, each piece just looks gray, an indistinct blob of undifferentiated fuzz. Standing in the doorway to the gallery it doesn't look like anything's really on display. But place the same work flat and you can't approach it: All you can do is get up to it and look down, so you first apprehend it from the proper viewing distance. You can get closer if you want (or if you're very short) but you can't get farther away -- pretty much everyone is forced to see the work from the same approximate distance, about half arm's length. Which is pretty much right.

I met Adam for the first time that night. He's just what you'd expect, a slim, bearded monastic, appearing as if he just stepped out of his cell. But cheerful and friendly, like a happy monk. I asked about the works laid flat. He said he did that because he didn't want each one to have a definite orientation -- there's not supposed to be a defined "up" with his pieces. It's just that, when you hang it on the wall, it has to have an "up." But if you lay it down, you can view it from any side.

So, really, pulling the pieces off the wall solves two problems. More of them should be seen that way. Maybe at Adam's next show they'll all be lying down.

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