China Adams’ series A Certain Period of Time drawings explore the notion of the passage of time. The overall structures of the drawings allude to graphs and other mechanized time keeping devices like EKG heart monitors and earthquake recording devices. However, the fact that her drawings are stripped of any real data is key. The drawings pay homage to the beauty of graphic structures by intentionally withholding any actual data, so that the graphic structures can be focused on and appreciated. Adams “graphs” depart from real graphs in their structural complexity. In essence, “graphs” are her point of departure, but she takes liberties with them formally, to create beautiful, aesthetic forms.
Since the drawings lack data as a driving force in their construction, they invert the conceptual nature of real graphs and become highly aestheticized drawings.
Adams makes the drawings line by line, using a ruler and one in and out-breath per line drawn. The process connects to the notion of meditation and tracking one’s breath (and thus time). In essence the pieces symbolize the passage of time both literally in the process of their construction and figuratively in the forms they take in their physical completion.
It is also important to note that Adams does not plan the overall structure of the drawings. The outside contour line, which defines the outer edge of the cluster of lines, develops slowly as each line is individually added (vertically next to the one that immediately preceded it). One could think of the drawings as an extremely control form of Abstract Expressionism, as Adams “feels” her way through the drawings adding new lines according to what makes sense to the lines she has already laid down. The immediacy of Adams’ work process, albeit an extremely slow process, is an important factor in the way in which the work is conceived because it clarifies that the work evolves in the “doing,” rather than in planning beforehand.
Though not as immediately self-referential as some of her earlier work, Adams’ current series of drawings certainly have a quality of self-portraiture imbedded within them. In considering the conscientious act of drawing each line, one at a time, one might imagine that these collections of lines mirror the internal rhythms of Adams’ thinking and breathing, slowed and intentional, paying homage to her own movement through time as she defines her experience with supreme economy using line only.
In her new circular ink drawings, Adams continues to investigate the time-motion relationship established in the A Certain Period of Time series. Developed in response to her exhibition with Joshua Abarbanel, Adams’ If Only series resembles the stump of a tree where the patterns of the rings document its life. The hand-drawn amorphic circles are replications of nature’s diary of its own growth.