When I was looking at Marina Adams’s five large paintings in her terrific debut exhibition, Marina Adams: Soft Power, at Salon 94 Bowery (January 13–February 22, 2017), I felt that she shared something with the superb colorist, the Russian-born Serge Poliakoff (1908–1969), who, while he remains little known in America, gained a number of ardent fans who saw his work in Paris, where he lived and worked for many years, Shirley Jaffe, Brice Marden, and Jonathan Lasker, among them. The eye-opening survey exhibition, Serge Poliakoff, at Cheim & Read (March 31–April 30, 2016), thoughtfully curated by the artist and critic Joe Fyfe, was his first large show in America in thirty years. That exhibition introduced us to a postwar artist working in Europe in the 1950s and ‘60s who had fallen from grace and was not looked at seriously for many years, either in Europe or America.
After leaving Adams’s show, I went home and looked up the review of the Poliakoff exhibition that Rob Colvin wrote for Hyperallergic (April 27, 2016) — I remember thinking it was very smart — and came across this line:
The works sustain a restless equilibrium.
Colvin’s description seems a useful way to begin thinking about the paintings and works on paper in, Marina Adams: Soft Power. There are a lot of differences between Adams and Poliakoff, too many to enumerate. I would say the most important one is the speed with which Adams seems to make her paintings. They are a combination of structure and improvisation, the latter a particularly American practice that comes from Abstract Expressionism and jazz. Adams’s amalgamation of structure, line, and color places her in the strain of abstract painting that seems to have originated in New York in the mid-1980s, when Mary Heilmann began showing again after a long hiatus, and dates back earlier to Lee Krasner’s paintings with floral forms. They seem effortless, though that is not the case...