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Early life and education
Adams studied at Cardiff School of Art & Design 1962–1967. In 1966 he married Barbara Whedon, an American art student studying at Cardiff. Adams Received an MFA degree from Rutgers University (1967–69), where he studied with the fluxest artist Bob Watts. In 1969 while still a grad student he participated in the first ‘Soft Art’ Exhibitions at The New Jersey State Museum, along with Richard Serra. Richard Archwager, Keith Sonnier, and John Chamberlain among others.
In 1970 he moved to New York City where he lived and worked until 2002.
Early mystery work
In 1974 his first ‘Mystery' series was shown at the legendary112 Green Street Gallery in Soho, N.Y. In 1976 he began showing with the John Gibson Gallery, where he became part of a movement known as Narrative Art. Adams was associated with a group of Conceptual artists who used fictional text and photographs. He separated himself from these artists by not using any text, instead he adopted a more semiotic approach to the narrative in which the photograph became a surrogate for text. The 'Mystery' series had a film Noir quality and an extreme narrative compression.
Throughout his career, Adams recognized that the space between the images can be as important as the image itself. He has come to use the term 'Narrative Void'( a term used in film when speaking of the space between frames) to describe the meaning in the space between images. These works were exhibited at American Narrative/Story Art: 1967–1977 at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Documenta 6, Kassel Germany, 1977, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, England 1975–76, Galleria Studio G7, Bologna, Italy 1978, Chapter Arts Center, S.Wales, 1979 and The Nigel Greenwood Gallery, London 1978, to name a few. These early photographic works became influential for a generation of artists
At the same time as Adams was making his mystery photographic works, he was also making large sometimes room size installations of fictional crimes. Tableaux's in which the audience was invited to reconstruct the narrative through interpretation and forensic analysis.
In 1984 Mac Adams began working with shadows. Figurative shadows were projected from structures that were highly abstract, only revealing themselves under certain light conditions. Large outdoor shadow sculptures worked by sunlight responding to the earth’s tilt and shift, e.g.: ‘The Serpent Bearer’ Montclair University 1987. ‘The Fountainhead’ La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, CA 1988, ‘Meditation’ Louis Pasture University Strasbourg, France. 1996. ‘Wings and Wheels’ New Jersey Department of Transportation, Cherry Hill N.J. interior sculptures worked with spotlights projected onto abstract sculptures casting figurative shadows on to walls and floors. Models and sculptures where exhibited at Farideh Cadot Gallery New York City 1887 and John Gibson Gallery NYC. 1992. This work influenced another generation of artists, e.g. Tim Nobel and Sue Webster.
Adams has also made over 13 large-scale public art projects. He designed the Korean War Memorial Battery Park New York City. This was the first major Memorial dedicated to the Korean War in the United States, it was installed 1991.
In 2009 the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, awarded him Distinguished Teaching Professor.
Mac Adams work has been acquired by over 35 public museums such as Museum of Modern Art, New York, Center Pompidou, Paris, Brooklyn, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, California Museum, Mudam, Musee D’Art Moderne, Luxembourg. Harvard University.
- New York State University Chancellors Research Award for Excellence in Arts and Humanities. 2002.
- New York State Fellowship for the Arts (Sculpture), 1988
- National Endowment Fellowship for the Arts (Sculpture), 1982
- Berlin Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Berliner Kunstlerprogram, 1981
- National Endowment Fellowship for the Arts, 1980
- National Endowment Fellowship for the Arts, 1977
‘The Narrative Void’ Mac Adams, Essays by Alexandre Quoi, Francois Cheval, published by Le bec en L’air. 2010
‘Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt’, Mac Adams, Essay by Nancy Princenthal, published by musees des Chateauroux & editions joca seria 2004
.’Crimes of Perception’ Mac Adams, Essays by Judicael Lavrador & Yannick Vigouroux, published by Bank NSMD & Regard 2001.
’Mens Rea’ Published by Les editions de L’oeil, stories by Richard Price, Sarah Weeks, Yoann Gourmel, Jean –Bernard Pouy, Gael Teicher. 2006.
Soulillou, Jacques,Mac Adams,Fonds Regional D’Art Contemorain, second edition, Deuxiemeepoque, 1989–1995.
Blistene, Bernard, Mac Adams Mysteries, catalogue, Musee De Toulon, Toulon, France 1982.
Forsha, Lynda, Mac Adams, Fountainhead Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla, California, 1989