Pop life

By GREG COOK  |  September 18, 2013

EMOTIONALLY RICH Adams's 'Jillian #1.'

At AS220’s Main Gallery (115 Empire St, Providence, through September 28), Rebecca Adams also plumbs pop culture mythology. In previous work, the Providence artist riffed on stock photography and stills from mid-20th-century film noir to create sets of black-and-white paintings of ladies crying or smoking or drinking glasses of milk or talking on telephones. The paintings were amusing conceptually-driven groups based on Hollywood cliches, but could lapse into hipster kitsch.

Here Adams maintains the catchy noir atmosphere, but makes it her own by shooting her original photos for source material (she studied photography at RISD) and paying attention to her subjects as individuals. The result digests her earlier work to achieve something more emotionally rich.

In paintings, a man stands with his face in shadow of the hood of his camouflaged jacket or a woman presses her head against zigzag stripped fabric rumpled as if on a bed. In Pink Dress (the title winks at you because Adams continues to paint in just black, white, and gray), a woman stands facing away from us, next to a mirror, with her hands behind the back of her teardrop- or peacock feather-patterned dress.

Adams’s painting has grown more technically sophisticated, which is perhaps most apparent in her rendering of faces and elaborate, jazzy fabric patterns. But mostly these are about dramatic spotlighting and shadows, about people wearing ambiguous expressions, about luxuriating in alluring moods.
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