contribution to Whitney Biennial Catalogue
David Adamo, All in Good Time, Chaper III: David Adamo and Ettore Favini, Installation view, September 24 - November 20, 2011, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy
Often playing with the connotations of immediately recognizable proplike objects, David Adamo’s installations hint at performative acts withheld and theatrical scenarios deferred. An ongoing untitled series features the blunt force and aggression of conventionally masculine tools and implements—sledgehammers, axes, and baseball bats—rendered fragile and useless by the artist as he hacks and whittles hefty items into mere spindles before delicately leaning his handiwork in taxonomical groupings along gallery walls. Serially arranged and equally spaced out—in a wry nod to the presentation of early Conceptual art—Adamo carefully pools wood chippings and shavings around each of these abused objects in foppish acknowledgement of his artistic process and the literally dematerialized art on display. In contrast with the austerity of a seminal work like Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making (1961), Adamo’s gestural inversions rely upon comedic effect and a precocious talent for spare configurations.
The installation Untitled (Margret) (2009) offers the proverbial “rotten tomatoes” that one might throw at a failing comedian or performer, cast in bronze and placed upon a soapboxlike platform; Untitled (Smashed Bronze Tomato No 2), for example, is one among a bushel of such fallen fruit littering the stage of an opaque mise-en-scène. As with Untitled (2008), where two feathered arrows are wrapped in a thick swath of Beuysian gray felt, many of Adamo’s works function like the punch line of a joke wherein the set-up has been excised. Untitled (The Rite of Spring) (2008) creates a stage out of hundreds of Louisville Slugger brand baseball bats placed head to handle across the gallery floor, referencing Igor Stravinky and Vaslav Nijiksky’s notorious ballet of 1913 in addition to the annual commencement of America’s favorite pastime. Adamo’s invitations to take the stage overturn participatory rhetoric with punning references and hapless gestures.