Daily Art Moment: David Emitt Adams

From the Conversations with History series, David Emmitt Adams. A sculpture composed of three main rusted metal objects, one containing a photo of a desert scene. A weathered, rusted tin can rests on its side on top of a crushed, dented metal container with a handle and a smaller piece of rusty trapezoid shaped metal. The end of the can has a black and white photo of two large cactus plants amid other vegetation in a desert setting. Below it sits the trapezoid shaped metal piece, rusted, the top of it crushed. Its original purpose is not identifiable. To the left is a larger metal piece, bigger than the other two pieces put together. It appears folded in half on itself, a sharp fold jutting towards the left with jagged edges. It has a handle with a grip bar and a small valve attached to its side with rivets. The metal pieces are rusty reddish brown and have a rough looking surface. Spots of orange rust speckle the body. The printed end of the can appears smoother and shows a bit of reflected light off its ridged surface.

“As long as people have been in the American West, they have found its barren desert landscapes to be ideal for dumping detritus. Today, the notion of land untouched by humans is so foreign it might as well be make-believe.

For pieces in the series Conversations With History, I collect discarded metal objects from massive dump sites in the Sonoran desert, generally along debunked railroad lines. Some of these objects are more than four decades old, which have earned a deep reddish-brown, rusty coloration. This rich patina is the evidence of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography. Once collected I manipulate these objects through the labor-intensive 19th-century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion, creating a tintype photograph on the object’s surface. The results are photo-sculptures that have history as artifacts and hold images connected to the locations where they were found. Desert Combines No. 2 pushes the sculptural aspect of this series even further. The cantilever assemblage balances the fragile photograph precariously, emphasizing the delicate relationship between humans and the environment.”

David Emitt Adams

David Emitt Adams. Desert Combines #2, 2018. Before We Arrived, 2014, from the series Conversations with History. Tintypes on found objects © David Emitt Adams, courtesy Etherton Gallery.

This piece will be on view as part of the Ansel Adams in Our Time exhibition, opening May 5.

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