Bruce Adams
Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John
Oil on wood with plastic toys and wood frames
16.5" x 50"
Bruce Adams’ website


Bruce Adams is best known as a conceptually based figurative painter who references various (often historical) painting styles. In exploring the act of painting, Adams peels back the layers of meaning inherent in making and viewing art.

Formally trained in art education at Buffalo State College, Adams considers his true education to be his involvement in the contemporary art scene, starting in the nineteen-eighties as director/curator of a small storefront gallery called peopleart bflo, and then with Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center as an Artist Advisory Committee co-founder, long-time board member, and board president. More recently he has added art critic to the list, for which he won the Bronze Award in art criticism in the National City and Regional Magazine Editorial and Design Awards in 2005.

In addition to painting, Adams has also worked in the mediums of installation and performance artist, and more recently as a creative and critical writer. Adams has exhibited extensively, and his work is included in numerous private and museum collections including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Castellani Museum, UB Anderson Gallery, and Burchfield-Penney Art Center. In 2007 Adams was given an extensive mid-career survey exhibition titled Bruce Adams, Half Life 1980-2006 at the UB Anderson Gallery.

Artist Statement:

Though we don’t generally think about it, thirteenth-century religious art actually reflects medieval European perceptions of events that occurred in the ancient Middle East. So what I’ve done in the Divine Beauty project is filter sacred iconography through the secular lens of today’s societal perceptions. I do this by placing found commercial fashion imagery (from magazines and other sources) in the context of painted religious narratives, producing a clash of ideas that throw both sources into question.

Like many Western New Yorkers, I was raised Catholic. I attended a Catholic elementary school, went to church every day. While the indoctrination didn’t last beyond childhood, I did acquire a lifelong affinity for the visual traditions of sacred art. But, as the recent economic meltdown has made apparent, conspicuous global consumption has replaced western religion today as the favored path to personal fulfillment. Fashion models serve as the new icons for the church of materialism, gazing intensely from billboards and magazines. Like traditional depictions of saints and religious figures, they often evoke rapture, anguish, and implied narratives. I’m intrigued by the fake heroic ethos, smarmy lighting, and barely hidden sexual agendas (that tug at both male and female desires) of these ads as they promote devotion to cologne, jeans, and underwear. My work retains many conventions of traditional religious art, balancing historical painting against tossed-off illustration. Homoerotic subtexts parallel those in many historical religious works. I also reference pop culture, mass production (as in the "quick and dirty" stenciling in many of the backgrounds), and our current "crusade" for oil in the middle-east. The frames (made from commercial carpenter moldings, or gold spray-painted thrift shop frames) mimic 11th to17th century styles.

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