Insights of an exile

Paintings By Albert Adams
Irma Stem Museum, University of Cape Town

Albert Adams left South Africa for London in the 1950s because he had no alternative – barred by apartheid structures from attending the same art school as his white counterparts. He ended up at the Slade. Later, he spent a year studying under Oskar Kokoschka in Salzburg.

As a brief retrospective, the exhibition at the Irma Stem Museum offers a fascinating Insight into how Adams responded to forced upheavals, new situations and influences.

His earlier work, particularly Cape Town Docks (1959) and Self-Portrait with Gold Fish (1960). is strongly influenced by Kokoschka, though his vibrant colours are distinctly African. Far more bleak, yet equally impressive, Resurrection (1960) looks like a sinister and slippery fusion of Goya and Auerbach.

His work from the 1980s begins to point in a number of different directions. Pieces such as Cyclist with Monkey (1983), Figure with White Dog (1983) and Untitled (a canvas collage from 1984) display the influence of artists such as Bacon, Kitaj and Hockney respectively.

His more recent work, such as The Monkey and the Signal Box (1994), while playful and humorous, lacks the formal dexterity and perseverance which make earlier pieces so compelling. Even so. Adams has shown that he is an artist of considerable range and skill. He last exhibited In Cape Town In 1980. Let’s hope it won’t be another 14 years until we see more.

James Gamer
Weekly Mail
8-14 April 1994

Insights of an Exile