Walk into David Adamo’s new show at Nelson-Freeman Gallery in Paris, and you might worry that you’ve arrived shortly after a crazed art vandal: the white floor crumbles underfoot, mixing with splinters of wood, squashed tomatoes and M&Ms, and a dusting of other discarded objects.
A closer look reveals that the American-born Adamo has carefully orchestrated the whole scene. The “parquet” floor is actually made out of chalk, meant to crack underfoot.The coins and candy are cast in brass in the artist’s studio. And the wood chips have been scattered by Adamo himself, who sweeps them up from his floor after he’s finished one of his remarkable cedar sculptures, depositing them on the gallery floor next to the finished piece.
Adamo, who has participated in the last two Whitney Biennials, is best known for his wood sculptures, which often begin as common household tools–an axe or baseball bat–and end as thin, whittled toothpicks. As the 33-year-old explained in a recent Art Forum essay, the work is about the process, rather than the end form–that’s just evidence. “I jump around the studio at about 200 beats per minute. When I feel good and ready, I chop the wood.”
At Nelson-Freeman, Adamo has moved on to working with larger chunks of wood, creating swirling forms and jagged, almost Quixotic figures. Despite the aggressive feel of the pieces, Adamo has stridently denied that they are “violent.” Rather, they’re the remnants of a physical performance that only he gets to see, danced in 30-minute intervals (he takes breaks–whittling giant logs is fairly intense manual labor).
“I see my feelings and emotions when I look at those chips,” the Berlin-based artist wrote in AF. “And now that I’ve done so many of these sculptures, I have a large archive of them. When you look at the chips you can also see the other small things that were swept in, like cigarette butts or candy wrappers or whatever else was in my studio or the gallery. I can always tell where I was or where they were made from the garbage in the pile.”