Mark Adams (1925 – 2006) designed such things as large-scale tapestries and the magnificent stained glass windows of Temple Beth El in San Francisco, but his smaller works have a wonderful, intimate appeal arising from his decisiveness in choosing which of the visual elements before him to pursue, and his clarity in executing them.
“Alcatraz” is divided into three bands–sky, mountains, and water–with the island settled in the middle. The bands are simple in shape, but with a variety of texture and color that keeps them interesting and even a little surprising. The island is handled similarly, but with a full range of tones, and more variety of color, starting with warm off-whites on the left to that bold, flat blue on the right. The whole is so clear and undisguised in its design that it seems simple, but the more you look the more complexity you find.
We get the same decisiveness in “Lily in Shadow”, although here the smaller size and single dominant object allows a very austere handling–just the texture of the paper–without monotony. But the lily and the background are full of shapes, and the shapes, while simple-seeming, aren’t simple. Follow the outlines and the fall of light over the lily.