Imagine that you have been sent, telepathically, an extensive coded message. Your head is overflowing with unknown symbols. Twists and turns of designs like those made with a Spirograph, sometimes words, images of people, and lots of geometrical shapes meld together to create this mysterious blueprint. Perhaps it is not as mysterious as it seems; perhaps you’ve been sent such an overload of information that you must really take some time to look it through. This seemingly chaotic organization is typical of award-winning artist Johnny Adimando, a Rhode Island, USA based printmaker. Johnny translates these messages through photography, 2-D prints, videos, sculptural wall hangings, and most recently, “The Night Carriers” installations. The use of screen printing, paper cutting and paper folding are all involved in the creation process. Much of the time, the finished works are very symmetrical, balanced, and precise. Though at first they may be a little overwhelming to look at, you can start to pick out images and meanings as you work to actually see.
“Through my work, I explore formal dynamics related to the visual representation of divinity, the processes of self-imprisonment, and ritual (tied to both dogma and spirituality)… I focus primarily on systems/structures of authority, ideas about armoring oneself against the world, and accessioning primordial escapist urges.” ~Johnny Adimando
The works are mostly tonal as there isn’t much in terms of color variation, causing you to focus on the mapping of shapes and patterns. Johnny’s primarily paper creations feel subliminal, peering into an industrial kaleidoscope, like the overlapping of mazes. Parallel dimensions, alternate planes, stepping inside of a computer mother board…With their other-worldly quality and addition of plastic and metal materials, these works remind me of every extraterrestrial and sci-fi movie I have ever seen.
The year 2017 has Johnny scheduled as a lecturer and printmaker for RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), as well as an exhibitor in the Union Arts Center two-person show “Catherine Graham and Johnny Adimando” and the Wheaton College group show “Biennial: Printmaking Re-Imagined”. Also, keep a lookout for the date announcement and mark your calendar for his solo show “Sentinel of Solemn Spheres” at Yellow Peril Gallery. But make sure to set aside a moment or two to sift through the data; Johnny Adimando does not give you the message so easily.
Continue below for a short question and answer with Johnny Adimando.
I know that screen printing and paper cutting are involved in the creation of your works. In regards to your more recent installations, could you give us a behind-the-scenes look at how an installation piece is created?
The installation scale works, all of which fall under the umbrella title “The Night Carriers”, are a series of large-scale print-based wall-works and sculptures. Each of these pieces contains elements that are hand-drawn, screen printed, painted/printed on site (gallery, museum, etc.) and fully fabricated off site/in-studio. Typically, I will create the sculptural elements (usually modularly, so they can be more easily disassembled, transported, and reassembled) in my personal studio. The main body of the series has been built largely of paper (literally printed, cut, and assembled paper and paper-board), and in recent pieces I’ve started building wooden armatures, including glass and Plexiglas elements, etched copper plating, and custom hardware.
Videos, photography, sculpture, and installation have all been used in how you present your ideas. I am intrigued by your videos… What can you tell us about using video versus photography or installation or 2-D as vessels for your message?
It’s interesting that you ask about my video work; it has never come up in previous interviews and is actually some of the work I’ve always been most excited about making.
I say this mainly because I think of the videos as living drawings/prints. In fact, they are quite literally composed of scanned and photographed drawings and prints. But, even once they enter into the digital domain, they are built on complex successions of layering, not at all unlike a finished print is composed, and at times I would argue they are even more aggressively edited than my drawings. It’s also in exploring this space of time and motion that I really began integrating my writing into the work; I have a lifelong writing practice (primarily poetry) that parallels my visual endeavors. I’ve come to realize recently that I think I actually experience time as language, otherwise things aren’t moving at all…I’m obsessive, an over-thinker/analyzer; I spend most of my free time alone, talk to myself a lot, even when I’m walking on the street. I suppose I think it’s important to sound the mantra out loud; see if it carries, floats, holds-weight.
The other thing is that I’m just not and have never have been, a formal purist. Studying and teaching printmaking doesn’t render me a printmaker. Some ideas just work better as video, or sculpture, etc. Printmaking is kind of like the engineering principal of the design of my work, it helps to set some guidelines for the moves I will make, but in the end I feel like the work divorces itself from any singular point of origin by ultimately bridging to digital interfaces, drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture.
Let’s talk about your evolution; if I am correct, you started out making 2-D prints. You’ve done videos and photography as mentioned, and now I see a lot of installation work. How does this go hand-in-hand with the evolution of what you’re trying to express, and where are you hoping to go with it in the future?
I’m hellbent on this idea of bringing the metaphysical to plastic/malleable form. I find most of my inspiration in votive objects, religious artifacts and spaces; cathedral over museum let’s say.
The mythology I’m attempting to define visually is held firmly in the grasp of some ethereal plane. Which means that something is always lost in translation in the rectilinear framework of the “here and now”, which is why I think my work always becomes so complex visually. There is just so much spectral information to convey; it is my attempt at bringing it all to center, at least a little bit.