100 Creatives: John Adelman

John Adelman at work in his studio.
John Adelman at work in his studio.
Marc Brubaker

What he does: John Adelman is a visual artist who labors intensely to create dense, layered pieces through repetition. Often comprised of simple subject matters, the sheer volume of iterations comes together to create works that are intriguing and pleasing to the eye. "Almost all my work deals with layering, ink and component parts of some sort," he says.

Some of Adelman's pieces are tracings of nails which have been strewn across his current canvas. He titles these works by the number of nails in each piece, and before you ask, the most he's ever used was 157,000. Other works are constructed of words and definitions, written straight out of a dictionary and arranged in patterns and shapes. What's most striking, though, is that he's written his way straight through the dictionary - this one is a 1979 Webster's edition, and he's just passed the word "dive." Hurricane Ike took his first dictionary, a 1989 copy, which had seen him through the word "half."

One piece features half of the illustrations from a Relient K car manual - all the illustrations from the odd pages, traced together. A companion piece holds all the illustrations from the even pages.

"I show you all of the diagrams in the book, but it's kind of like Superman's x-ray vision gone wrong: You see all of them at once," Adelman explains. "How can he see through one wall? Why doesn't he see through all walls and all buildings?"

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Why he likes it: There's a formula behind each of Adelman's pieces - whether they're dictated by time or number of iterations, or something else entirely. The dual processes of developing those formulas and subsequently executing them are what drive him to keep creating. "I'm always looking for something that nobody else is doing," he says. "And as far as I know, nobody else is doing this."

All the writing for his verbally inspired pieces comes from the dictionary.

"The thing that's great about the dictionary is all the work has a sort of built-in chronology," he says. "The title is always the word I start with."

Adelman traced 47 thousand nails in creating the piece on the right.
Adelman traced 47 thousand nails in creating the piece on the right.
Marc Brubaker

What inspires him: Deriving and carrying out the formulas, which range from fairly simple to intricate, fuels each piece. "When I come up with that formula, I'm not done until that formula's finished," he says. "It's either something that's dictated to me numbers-wise, or build up a formula based on the words."

He adds, "I don't make aesthetic choices - when it's finished, it's finished."

If not this, then what? "I'd wanted to be a judge - because they're total control, and that's what people say: That I'm a control freak when it comes to my art," he admits.

What's next? John's next piece is laid out like a Scrabble board - and for good reason. For this work, he'll play against his computer - as many times as he can in a 24-hour period - and layer the games on the canvas.

As for exhibitions, Adelman is sending off pieces for a show in Istanbul at the end of the year. Currently he has work hanging at Holly Johnson Gallery in Dallas, and he's crafting pieces for a show at Avis Frank in Galveston, which will open August 27.

More Creatives (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Chandos Dodson, interior designer Cliff Franks, painter Kim Hartz, photographer Katy Heinlein, visual artist Robert Shimko, dramaturg Galina Kurlat, photographer Wayne Slaten, filmmaker Jane Weiner, dancer and choreographer El Franco Lee II, visual artist Chris McKay, photographer Jason Ransom, visual artist Mr. SINched, fashion desiger "Uncle" Charlie Hardwick, poster designer Avital Stolar, playwright and educator Katherine Houston, visual artist Christopher Olivier, visual artist Dennis Lee Harper, sculptor David A. Brown, photographer Rachel Harmeyer, visual artist Kia Neill, installation artist Stacy Davidson, filmmaker Jennifer Wood, choreographer GONZO247 Kevin DeVil, filmmaker Kerry Beyer, photographer and filmmaker Robert Ellis, musician Davie Graves, musician and visual artist Robert Hodge, multimedia Mary Magsamen, photo and video artist John Harvey, theater Bret Harmeyer, visual artist Joel Orr, puppet master Rodney Waters, photographer and pianist Jeremy Choate, lighting designer Chuck Ivy, visual artist Tra'Slaughter, visual artist Jen Chen - visual art, designer Howard Sherman - Painter Nancy Hendrick - Founder of Dance Salad Misha Penton - Opera Singer and Theater Artist Ben Tecumseh DeSoto - Photojournalist Tracy Robertson aka Batty - Goth Fashion Designer Tierney Malone - Creative Type Dolan Smith - Painter Jenny Schlief - Mixed-Media Artist David Eagleman - Writer Anna Sprage - Painter Philip Lehl - Actor Andy Noble - Choreographer David McGee - Painter


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