Anthony Adcock’s paintings appear so much like the actual sheets of metal or plywood that they represent that I’m not sure I could tell the difference if they were placed side-by-side. Other trompe-l’oeil paintings have never fooled me so completely. In that genre, there’s typically some area, large or small, that says something like, “this is not a pipe—or fly—or candy wrapper.” And even if one cannot sense the brush or paint in Adcock’s work, other trompe-l’oeil artists have used them to establish lyrical modulations of tone and pattern, and a strong sense that this is someone’s private, cherished world.
Adcock’s pieces feel just as impersonal as the panels would have felt before he began painting on them. Or, almost. There is a barely perceptible difference if you look up at the exposed rafters in the low ceiling of the gallery. The rough, dark surfaces of those old beams are so harsh, cold, and unfriendly that, by contrast, you can feel the warmth and softness in the paintings that hang just below them. It’s a very faint softness, but it’s Adcock’s voice—and that makes his paintings more compelling than an entire lumberyard full of actual building materials.
As Adcock’s soft voice records the random scratches, stains or corrosions that he finds, he presents a universe that is careless and unpredictable. None of the original surfaces suffered violent or destructive abuse. All are still perfectly flat, perfectly rectangular and fit for their original purposes. Even the Chicago street sign, scuffed and stickered as it is, still legibly proclaims the tow zone during street cleaning hours. Were you to inventory the weathered surfaces found in your basement, you might also discover that the surfaces Adcock chose to imitate were more than just suitable. They are as pleasant as a smoke patina on fired pottery, or as whimsical as a pair of eyes unexpectedly emerging from a surrealist painting.
A friendly, humorous, positive voice seems to be whispering above the numbing void. It’s too faint to satisfy my appetite for expression, while those who seek nihilism might prefer it be served straight, without cream and sugar. But nobody can deny Adcock’s impeccable, uncanny craftsmanship. (Chris Miller)
Through May 31 at Packer Schopf Gallery, 942 West Lake.