Contributed by by Danielle Wu / Given the influx of politically oriented�exhibitions lately, “Soft Power,” Marina Adams’s solo at Salon 94 offers an ethereal mind space that provides relief from all the strain and strife.�Wavy blocks of bright color, from lemony yellows to saltwater blues, nest together, embracing each other�s outlines. Standing in front of her�grand abstractions�is like basking in warm sunlight.
Dividing�her time between�studios in New York and Parma, Italy, Adams makes luminous paintings that conjure the stained glass windows inside Italian basilicas and cathedrals–the�portals between architecture, nature, and the divine. In works such as 21 (2015) and Soft Power (2016), the forms’ borders have thick�outlines�that are akin�to the leadlines between pieces of glass.
The�space within her paintings is�full of optimism and wonderment that is easily�dismissed as na�ve. In past reviews, her work has been read in painfully gendered terms. A�critic once described her color choices as �nursery hues,� and interpreted her soft, biomorphic shapes as feminizations of modernist hard-edge painters such as Robert Mangold or Ellsworth Kelly.
But “softness” isn’t gender-specific. The title of her exhibition, “Soft Power,” a term coined in the 1990s by political scientist Joseph Nye, counters such�sexist essentialism.�Nye’s�notion of��soft power� focuses on persuasion rather than force � a humanistic approach that feels hopelessly derelict today.
Adams�has said she wants to create space for thought as opposed to dictating�it.�She is�inspired by Alex Katz, whose portraits are�illuminated by a warm, frontal light � a flattening quality that Adams brings to her own work. Like Katz, who clearly adores his subjects,�Adams paints in sweeping, sensuous strokes that glide generously across the canvas.
In these traumatic times, Adams reminds us that art can provide a healing space, a respite from a�dark reality.��Certainly there are artists who get involved in a political and social way,” she says.�”For me the act of painting is actually very radical.�That in itself, just doing what we do, is taking�a stance.�
“Marina Adams: Soft Power,” Salon 94, Lower East Side, New York, NY. Through�February 22, 2017.