June 22, 2020.

header image: Adria Pecora “Noise” (2020)

This short video includes two clips a little over ten minutes each, recorded during a virtual studio visit with visual artist Adria Pecora. To quote from her Artist Statement, Adria’s work is “rooted in formalism, aleatory processes, seriality, and language, [her] aesthetic bridges expressive, reductive, and conceptual idioms. (…) [Adria] deploy[s] processes that conflate creation and destruction, seeking to engage conceptually with the human condition, memory, loss and obsolescence. Current work contrasts themes of entrenchment and evanescence through a formal vocabulary of mark-making, writing, engraving, printing, erasure, and veiling.”

Adria and I have known each other for almost fifteen years. While I was an art student, Adria taught a number of painting, drawing, and history courses that were especially formative for me, so it was a special privilege to spend some time in the studio discussing her work. I last visited Adria’s studio in person in 2017, and so while many of the series we looked at during our discussion were familiar, specific pieces were new to me. The first painting Adria and I talk about is a recent work from her Noise series.

In this second clip, Adria and I look at a few selections from her Quodlibet series. The paintings feature a snippet of lyrics take from popular music; but as Adria and I discuss, the generalness of the language afforded by displacement gives them the quality of uncannily specific commentary – like a fortune teller – as in the line “photo opportunity,” from Paul Simons’ “You Can Call Me Al,” seemingly a reference to President Trump’s bizarre appearance at St. John’s Church earlier this month. And while this textual component of the work, and its personal significance for Adria, is what we discussed most, I think it’s also important to hone in on the quality of the paint – and how, like much of Adria’s work, they are richly textured, and visually fascinating.

What is not always apparent over webcam, but which can be clearly seen in slides or in person, is the diversity in paint handling – both between works in the series, and within individual paintings. There is a very handsome tension between hard edge, geometric abstraction – these are marks and forms that Adria makes with rulers and by masking off the ground – and really organic brushwork. I also want to point out that within those more painterly gestures, we sometimes see marks that resemble stains or smears or spills, aleatory, or chance marks; which, in the history of painting, have been strange bedfellows to geometry, in that they both refer to a kind of externality rather than an expression of the internal state of the painter. I find this effort to be simultaneously distant and personal, down to the level of mark-making, to be a very compelling element of the series.