James Lowell Adams was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, PA. His father—an artist, musician, and band leader—was one of the youngest members of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and went on to form his own orchestra, "Jimmy Adams and his Continentals." For a few years they were the toast of the town, sharing the stage with greats such as Count Basie, Louie Jordan, and Fats Waller. Growing up amongst the tenement building canyons of Philadelphia, Adams’s world was comprised of pavement, bricks, and sky—all under the flight path of the local airport. Planes and flight came to signify freedom and translated into an insatiable desire to venture beyond his confines.
Adams received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Temple University in 1965 and his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, and during this time he focused primarily on printmaking. A few years later Adams discovered acrylic paint and his dream of becoming a painter began to soar and with it 20 years of paintings dealing with his passion for aviation and flight—today considered a seminal body of work in the artist’s career. Adams began his teaching career while in graduate school at the Fleisher Memorial Art School and as a lecturer for the Print Club of Philadelphia. He later taught at California State University, Long Beach and the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design (known today as Laguna College of Art and Design). In 1970, after a brief time in Vancouver, he settled in Surrey, BC, with his wife and took up a position in the Fine Arts Department at Douglas/Kwantlen University College, where he taught until his retirement in 2000.
Among Adams’s most prominent exhibitions are The Irretrievable Moment (2017), a retrospective presented concurrently at The Surrey Art Gallery in Surrey and The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford; Mythic Sketches (2014) at the Newton Cultural Centre, Surrey; Re: Mix (2015) at the Surrey Art Gallery; and Tribute: The Art of African Canadian Artists (2006) at the Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives in Brampton, ON, and the Mississauga Art Gallery in Mississauga, ON. He has also been featured in solo and group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC; Amelia Douglas Gallery, New Westminster, BC; Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, ON; Richmond Art Centre, Richmond, BC; A Space Gallery, Toronto, ON; Metro Hall, Toronto; The Berkeley Centre at Yale University, New Haven, CT; Peterson Library at University of Connecticut, West Haven, CT; and numerous other venues.
Jim Adams’s works are included in the collections of The Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC; Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection, Toronto, ON; Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Palm Beach, FL; TRICON/The Berman Family, Toronto, ON; Tuskegee Airmen National Museum, Detroit, MI; International Women's Air and Space Museum, Cleveland, OH; The United States Air Force Collection, New York; Kozlekdesi Museum, Budapest, Hungary; as well as in numerous private collections. Jim Adams is a Surrey Civic Treasure Laureate and has been included in “Black in Canada” and the “Canadian Who’s Who.”
The gallery is pleased to announce that Jim Adams is presenting a series of paintings as part of Vancouver Special, the triennial presented at Vancouver Art Gallery. These paintings inspired by mythology and the black experience are portraits that merge storytelling of the ancient world and contemporary politics. Vancouver Special: Disorientations and Echo will be the second in what is envisioned as a series of exhibitions intended to provide an expansive look at contemporary art in the Greater Vancouver region.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce that Jim Adams's painting Faith (1996) was acquired by the Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody for The Bunker Artspace in West Palm Beach, FL. The painting is part of a series of portraits of black archetypes that the artist created in the 1990s and 2000s. Presenting rotating exhibitions and viewable storage of the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, The Bunker Artspace opened in December 2017 and showcases a wide range of contemporary art by both well-known and emerging artists, displayed alongside iconic pieces of furniture and other curiosities.
The works included in the show feature re-imaginings of ancient mythology with contemporary issues. A painting called Bus Stop (Leda and her Cygnets) become a parable for gun violence. Adams often features himself in his work, portraying himself as Zeus with a freaky looking grizzly bear. The work is a wonderful reminder that figurative painting is not only relevant, it’s ferocious. His images stare straight out from the canvas, locking you into their gaze. But before the relationship becomes a virtual stare-down, humour, compassion and joyous surrealism disrupt the intensity. Liberation ensues.
This unique group exhibitions features recent works of 32 established and emerging artists, manyare exhibiting at the gallery for the first time. The exhibition encompasses a variety of media, scale, and modes of presentation, with artworks that address themes of cultural resilience, the articulation of marginalized histories, and the significance of embodied knowledge.
Five years ago, in the spring of 2017, Surrey Art Gallery featured Adams’ work in “The Irretrievable Moment,” the biggest exhibition of his career. The title reflected the tone and nature of his art, which curators said “combines historical events with speculative futures, real people in imagined situations, and mythological people in contemporary scenarios.” Meantime, the ongoing pandemic hasn’t really changed the way Adams paints at his home studio.
From his fascination with flying to his desire to see the world in its totality from space, [Jim] Adams’s decades-long art pursuit seems as much about the scope of his journey as a Black man moving through time and mapping the coordinates of pleasure and meaning as it is about the paintings those experiences have produced. This is the visual literacy we need to engage now, so that instead of performing allyship through what’s trending, viewers come to understand how Black diasporic people, and specifically, one Black man, might interpret identity and mobility vis-à-vis painting.
Eternal Witness marks Adams first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and his first in the United States in over 45 years. The exhibition will present new paintings and sketches completed over the last four years along with a selection of works dating to the mid-late 1990s and the early 2000s.
Although Adams casts Black men and women in the role of classical heroes and deities, his work isn’t only a commentary on current events and geopolitics. Adams’ practice also captures dramatic skyscapes, planetary eclipses, and astral constellations that are apolitical and ahistorical. By connecting mythic subjects, modern-day people, and dream-like settings in his paintings, Adams uncovers qualities of our nature that have remained the same throughout time.
“Eternal Witness” is a show emblematic of the endless pertinence of history. Adams maintains that history is just as relevant today as it ever was when it was happening. The scenarios may change but he pursues the notion that the ideas driving humanity, for instance, the glorification of war or striving for power, remain persistent throughout time. The pyramid, a common structure throughout this series, remains a pinnacle of historic monuments that are significant in themselves but also carry individual projections. In Eternal Symbol 1996, the structure of cosmic proportions that has sparked conspiracy theories about its origins is positioned in an orangey burnt sienna background high above dusts of a cerulean blue sky.
The exhibition presents new paintings and sketches completed over the last four years along with a selection of works from the 1990s and 2000s. Philadelphia born Adams has lived in Canada since the 1970's and at age 78, this marks his first solo exhibition in the United States in over 45 years.
Eternal Witness marks Jim Adams' first solo exhibition with the Gallery. The exhibition will present new paintings and sketches completed over the last four years along with a selection of works dating to the turn of the millennium.
Jim Adams, an artist based out of British Columbia, presents a collection of paintings and drawings mostly drawn from a series named Mythic Sketches. The artist is interested in how myths, “both classic and obscure,” still represent the realities and struggles we undergo today: “jealousy, ambition, hubris, greed, and the glorification of warfare.” His images carry signs of ancient Egyptian pyramids and ruins, but his subjects are updated for the times: all heroes and deities wear 21st-century garb.
"I continue to work with the reinterpretation of Myths. For most of human history, the 'Gods' had one (or more) dominions over which he/she held sway, and seen by those who worshipped them as beings with the same faults and frailties as the human race."
Among purchases by notable individual collections was Kenneth Montague’s acquisition of Jim Adams’s Centurion (Self Portrait) (1977) from Luis De Jesus Los Angeles for the Wedge Collection. The large acrylic on canvas work was purchased on opening night. “Adams grew up directly under a major flight path in Philly, and dreamt of one day flying his own plane,” Montague explained on Instagram. “Upon arrival to Canada’s West Coast while still in his 20s, he immediately got his pilot’s license… and started painting.
The 19th edition of Art Toronto includes 102 exhibitors from seven countries, and it kicks off tonight at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. For years, the Surrey Art Gallery has been highlighting important artists overlooked by other Canadian art institutions. Among these talents is the 75-year-old Surrey local Jim Adams, whose retrospective The Irretrievable Moment they presented by the Surrey Art Gallery (as well as the Reach in nearby Abbotsford) in 2017.
Adams eagerly talked about "The Irretrievable Moment," the title of the biggest exhibition of his decades-long career as an artist. "I thought, what the hell, I'm coming up on my 75th birthday, let's see if we can pull it off here," Adams recalled. "And it turned out to be bigger than I thought it would be."
If it seems like Adams’s paintings have a story to them, that’s intentional. He tries to capture “the irretrievable moment” (the title of his art exhibit), which he describes as “where you’re committed to the action but the action hasn’t actually happened yet.” Such is the case with the signature image of his show, Nighthawks (Homage to Hopper).
A baker’s dozen of arts-centric individuals and organizations were celebrated by White Rock council as ‘community inspirations’ Monday. The list of nationally and internationally known honourees was far from complete, Mayor Baldwin noted in recognizing the 13 artists in attendance and another nine who were invited but were unable to attend.
"Painting is my life and teaching was my career," says Jim. "I retired from teaching, but I'll never 'retire' from painting. They both gave me great satisfaction; teaching as a means of helping others find their creative 'voice' and painting as a way of expressing what I see in the world around me." Today, Jim is a prolific artist with works in private and public collections internationally. He works primarily in acrylic and exhibits regularly.