Theme/Style – Modernism, Abstraction, still life, landscape, townscape
Media – Oils, tempera, gouache, watercolor, mixed media, lithography
Artistic Focus – As a painter and printmaker, Clinton Adams produced a mix of traditional representation and Modernist abstraction. Proficient in many media, he is known for his clean, abstracted architectural forms, the richly-toned watercolors he produced in the 1940s and 1950s, and also as one of the most important influences on the development of fine art printmaking in the United States. An acknowledged authority on the subject of lithography, Adams created handsome original prints, wrote seminal books, and was a key figure in the renowned Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles and Tamarind Institute in New Mexico.
Career Highlights –
- Clinton Adams was born in Glendale, California in 1918, and studied at UCLA, earning a Bachelor of Education degree in 1940 and a Master’s degree in 1942.
- Adams began teaching at UCLA as a graduate student around 1941, and in 1942 he was included in exhibitions at the American Contemporary Gallery in Los Angeles and the “Artists of Los Angeles and Vicinity” show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
- After serving in World War II, he became a full professor of art at UCLA around 1946 and began to study lithography. By 1948 Adams, along with other artists such as Jean Charlot, Henrietta Shore, June Wayne and Lorser Feitelson, was working with noted lithographer Lynton Kistler to produce prints for exhibition.
- Adams exhibited with the California Water Color Society at the Pasadena Art Institute in 1948. He was represented by Los Angeles’s Felix Landau Gallery in the 1950s and 1960s, and was included in the 1950 First International Biennial of Contemporary Color Lithography at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio with Ray Bertrand, Rico Lebrun, Fernand Léger, Pablo O’Higgins and others, as well as in shows at City Hall, Los Angeles in 1951 and UCLA’s Fine Arts Gallery in 1956 with Annita Delano, Stanton Macdonald Wright, and others.
- Adams remained at UCLA until 1954, when he left Los Angeles to chair the art departments at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and the University of Florida in Gainesville.
- When fellow printmaker June Wayne founded the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1960, Adams returned to serve as its Associate Director.
- He continued his association with Tamarind after relocating to New Mexico in 1961; and when the Workshop’s funding in Los Angeles ran out, Adams encouraged its move to the University of New Mexico in 1970, where he was Dean of the College of Fine Arts. Once in New Mexico, the name of the workshop was changed to the Tamarind Institute, with Adams as its director and also editor of the journal The Tamarind Papers.
- Adams remained actively involved in the University of New Mexico as a professor and administrator while working with Tamarind and pursuing his interest in early American lithography. He authored a number of books including the definitive history American Lithographers 1900-1960: The Artists and Their Printers (1983) and coauthored, with Garo Antreasian, The Tamarind Book of Lithography: Art & Techniques (1971), which is considered the standard text on the subject.
- Adams served as director of the Tamarind Institute until 1985, when he retired from both teaching at the university and his role at the Institute.
- Adams had more than 30 solo shows during his career, including at the aforementioned Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, California State University Northridge, and Peyton Wright Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. His tempera painting Barrington Street (1951) was included in the important exhibition “Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2000-2001.
- Adams passed away in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2002. The exhibition “Clinton Adams: Memorial Retrospective, 1918-2002” took place later that year at the Tobey C. Moss Gallery in Los Angeles. The catalogue raisonné A Meticulous Serenity: The Prints of Clinton Adams, 1958-1997 was published in 2012.
- Adams’s work is in the collections of the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts; the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena; the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.