Over the course of a career spanning more than five decades, Jim Adams has used portraiture and the landscape to prompt the viewer to further consider their own social role in wider histories: those histories that have passed, and those that are in the process of being created. This Viewing Room features two paintings by Adams that consider the irretrievable moment. The text he wrote was written during the escalation of the two battles that play out in them: one, the battle for women's reproductive rights and their own bodies; and, two, the battle for an independent country's sovereignty and democracy.
On June 24, 2022, the day the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs Wade, Jim Adams added this postscript:
"The irrational vindictiveness of the conservative male psyche and ego has stamped a petulant foot on the very essence of the rights of women. The Supreme Court ruling today has let loose the pent up fear of a small minority with access to power using it in an effort to restrict women's reproductive rights and control over their own bodies. These people (mainly men although there are a few misguided women) think they have gained the upper hand by enacting harsh and punitive laws that echo the worst excesses in world history. They continue to underestimate the power and resolve of women and their supporters. Like all repressive attempts, these will fail. Hypocrite 2.0 was painted in protest of the potential of the repressive laws now being enacted. Sadly, the image is still accurate."
"The irretrievable moment is that moment when an action has been initiated but nothing has yet changed. Lives are irrevocably changed—yet nothing has been decided. These are the moments that I work to capture in my paintings. Two issues are foremost in mind, the assault on Women's Rights and the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Both have been initiated and lives are being irrevocably changed—but the outcome is far from clear. I have tried to portray my sense of anger and dismay at the actions that have been taken and the rise of resistance to them, in my work. The two works shown here are the strongest works I have done on the issues at hand." - Jim Adams, Vancouver, May 24, 2022
Hypocrite 2.0 was started in reaction to archconservative politicians (primarily from the Southeastern U.S.) passing draconian laws dramatically curtailing the rights of women to basic human rights. It continues as a symbol of resistance as the U.S. Supreme Court appears ready to overturn the keystone legislation Roe v. Wade. The painting shows a symbolic lawmaker on the right, draped in the flag of his resistance, carrying a Bible which he has altered to fit his views (the word "Holy" is covered with a sticker that says "My" and a thousand-dollar bill is being used as a bookmark). He has a MAGA cap tucked under his arm and, in his right hand, he carries a broken coat hanger tied with a bow as a gift to his wife-girlfriend-mistress. On the left are women symbolizing the millions who are rising up in resistance to the potential effects of the proposed laws. Their protest emotions run from fear to rage with women of all ages taking part. In the background on the left you can see part of the slogan "Keep Abortion Legal" and on the right the state seal (behind the KKK hood) of the "Great State of Denial." This struggle between the two forces is far from being decided but the action has commenced irrevocably.
The title of the second painting, Mama Toto, a Prayer for Ukraine, is a Swahili honorific given as a sign of respect to mothers, the guardians of the present and future. The painting is a bird's eye view of a Ukrainian woman striding through a field of sunflowers (the Ukrainian national flower) carrying her child and her cat. She is armed with her rifle and Molotov Cocktail...and her baby's bottle. As she moves forward, she leaves a Russian flag and the symbolic "Z" of their Russian Army trampled into the mud. To one side, a sheet of blue paper floats with the national war cry (in Ukrainian) "Russian Warship, go F**K yourself". Both the baby and cat are looking up, but to what? The viewer? The fist of Russian aggression? Whatever it is, she continues to move forward. As with Hypocrite 2.0, the two forces have been set in motion but the outcome has yet to be determined.
James Lowell Adams was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, PA. Growing up among the tenement building canyons of Philadelphia, Adams’ world was comprised of only pavement, bricks and sky, under the flight path of the local airport, and so the symbol of flight, of being free, translated into an insatiable desire to venture beyond his confines.
Adams received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Temple University (1965) and his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1968). While in university he focused on printmaking, and it wasn’t until he discovered acrylic paints that his dream of becoming a painter soared 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 ouvre. 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 also taught in California at Cal State Long Beach and the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design. In 1970, after a short time in Vancouver, he settled in Surrey, BC, with his wife and took up a position in the Fine Arts Department at Douglas College/Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where he taught until his retirement in 2000.
Among Adams most prominent exhibitions are Vancouver Special: Disorientations and Echo (2021), at the Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, CA; Eternal Witness (2021), Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; The Irretrievable Moment (2017), a retrospective presented concurrently at The Surrey Art Gallery in Surrey and The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford; Mythic Sketches at the Newton Cultural Centre, Surrey; Re: Mix at the Surrey Art Gallery; and Tribute: The Art of African Canadian Artists 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, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Peterson Library, University of Connecticut, West Haven, CT; and numerous other venues.
Jim Adams’ works are included in the collections of The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC; Kenneth Montague/The Wedge Collection, Toronto, ON; Beth Rudin De Woody Collection/The Bunker Artspace, 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 in British Columbia; Philadelphia, PA; Los Angeles, CA; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Washington, DC; New York, NY; Princeton, NJ; Wake Forest, NC; Parma, Italy; Rome, Italy; Lausanne, Switzerland; London, England; Gravesend, Kent, UK; Pittenween, Scotland; and Budapest, Hungary.