Germinal: Solo Exhibition by MICA Faculty Lauren Frances Adams
MICA presents “Germinal,” a solo exhibition consisting of a site-specific installation by B.F.A. Painting faculty Lauren Frances Adams. The exhibition explores themes converging around feminist activists from American history, domestic ornament in service of political messages, such as Quaker abolitionist quilts and pro-Confederacy secessionist cockades, and the recent removal of Baltimore’s Confederate monuments.
“Germinal” opens Saturday, Jan. 20, and runs through Tuesday, March 13, at MICA’s Pinkard Gallery, Bunting Center, 1401 W Mt. Royal Ave. A reception will take place Thursday, Feb. 15, 5 - 7 p.m.
Reflecting on contemporary and historical political movements for the advancement of civil rights in America, Adams’ installation and research-based paintings examine the ways in which white women both helped and hindered progress, as well as the pioneering black feminists who fought for racial justice.
Specifically, Adams, whose work often focuses on the history of labor and class, looks at the ways in which feminist activists in American history, particularly women of color from the 18th century through the present day, have been overlooked in favor of white causes. Adams also questions the legacy of white feminists and suffragettes who advanced white feminist issues over black interests, and grounds the idea of white culpability in racial injustice to the present day.
“Germinal” also showcases the recent public battle over removing Confederate monuments, including the Confederate Women’s Monument, which was located adjacent to MICA’s campus on Mt. Royal Ave. and dismantled by Mayor Pugh in August.
“Given the recent movement to remove Confederate monuments across the country and in Baltimore, I wanted to create work that responds to the dichotomy between these efforts and the palpable civil and political unrest that has taken hold of the national body politic,” said Adams.
The installation of “Germinal” will transform the gallery space by applying custom wallpaper designs and patterns to the normally white wall space, and will feature collections of painted found objects, such as stacks of locally reclaimed brick from Baltimore featuring patterns and designs reflecting resistance to white supremacy, and oyster shells sourced from Maryland’s Choptank River—where Harriet Tubman lived—with portraits of activists painted on the inside of the shells.
The objects will be incrementally added to the installation throughout the exhibition, accumulating (or “germinating”) over time as though growing out of the initial object. The title is also a play on the word “seminal,” acting as the feminine counter to the male-dominated concept of historicity and plays up the role of women in enacting—or hindering—social change.
“The works on display encourage a consideration of the ways in which public visual culture has contributed to the reinforcement of Confederate spaces and values, while also highlighting the long history of women who resisted (racialized and gendered) oppression and the continuation of these struggles today,” Adams said.
“Germinal” is supported through a Marcella Brenner Grant for Faculty Development and Research, which annually funds projects that contribute to MICA faculty members’ professional, artistic or scholarly research and development. “Germinal” will be accompanied by an exhibition catalog featuring an essay by MICA Humanistic Studies faculty Christine Manganaro.
Lauren Frances Adams’ work engages political and social histories through iconic images and domestic ornament. At the core of her work are critical explorations of labor and class in visual culture. She draws heavily upon the historical decorative arts, such as wallpaper patterns, quilts and paintings, to find contradictions within the contexts they originated. Alongside painting and mixed-media installations, domestic materials take shape in her research on the construction of political identity.
Adams earned her B.F.A. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her M.F.A. at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has been exhibited at Nymans House National Trust, Sussex, England; The Walters Museum, Baltimore, Maryland; The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Recent projects include Smack Mellon in Brooklyn and Plug Projects in Kansas City.
She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and has held residencies at the Cite in Paris and the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil. She is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation M.F.A. Award, a 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award and the 2016 Trawick Prize. Adams is a founding member of Ortega y Gasset Projects, a project space in New York City.
Image: "Germinal: Bricks and Oysters Series," Choptank River oysters, mixed media paint, 2017.