An open and accepting energy permeates Adam Baranello’s exhibit, A Room Full of Art, at the Southampton Cultural Center. Spending time with Adam was inspiring and validating, and I left charged with creativity. Open to the public until February 12, don’t miss this awesome art exhibit from one of the East End’s most eclectic and engaged artists!
Chances are you have seen Adam’s art around the Hamptons; together with his wife, Gail, he has a consistent presence at the SCC, and is featured at Hamptons Photo Arts and Framing in Southampton. I first met Adam over the summer at the Hamptons Vintage Fair, where I was immediately drawn to his signature lo-fi style.
Inside, the exhibit is cleverly curated to transform the space into A Room Full of Art. Bustling and lively, the space is never chaotic or overwhelming. “This is our second year doing this exhibit, and this time I really focused on making sure that art is visible from every corner of the space. Really being intentional to create a space that envelopes you in art. I didn’t want it to feel stuffy and closed off but open and inviting.”
A genuine renaissance man whose art spans many mediums and disciplines, including his own (delicious) wine from Channing Daughters! We clicked on many levels, especially on how important flaws—call it character—are to art. “I like art that is new and confident. There is insecurity to perfection. I’d rather something original, offbeat, or even abrasive and authentic. Anything over a piece of art that is so polished a machine could have made it. BE WEIRD!”
“Getting started is the hardest part,” Adam says about his creative process. “As an artist, I always just jump in – just put it out there. When I’m painting or filming or making music, I find that restriction sometimes helps me create, so I get something down and then work around it.”
I relate so much to the fear of a blank page, and we connected on the importance of being weird. “I try not to pay too much attention to exactly what I do when I create. It keeps the work human.” At its core, A Room Full of Art shines with that humanness. The artists’ fingerprints are visible in every piece on display in the best possible way revealing the art of acceptance, flaws, and all.
Over our conversation, we kept coming back to the idea that training does not always mean learning. It was a poignant reminder that what you think you know can get in the way of learning something new.
Although he did not immediately identify as an educator, Adam’s work has substantially impacted the art conversation in the Hamptons. Everything about A Room Full of Art highlights his openness and approachability, qualities that make him such a resource to our community.
“I always learn by doing; learning is fun when you are doing something.” I was struck by the humility and honesty in his approach to art and teaching and learning. That humility is so essential when working with developing artists and young people, “To me, the most rewarding part about working with young artists is seeing their confidence in decisions grow – letting them know that creativity is messy and it’s okay to work with mistakes or flaws.”
As the brother of an accomplished professional recording artist, Adam was encouraged to build on his intuition and desire to create. “As an artist, I try to focus on my vision, not on ‘best practice’ or classical training. Not at all to knock that. I’m so grateful that my brother encouraged me to make music rather than telling me what I needed to study and do before making music.” With 12 albums released, that advice has served him well. You can find his music online; check him out on Spotify.
A Room Full of Art is brimming with ideas and questions, but it never told me what to think. Conspicuously absent is the oversimplified and reductive dynamic where the woes of consumerism are denigrated as basal greed, and rejecting our love of things is an enlightened outlook. What a relief to be reminded that it’s okay, unavoidable even, to be impacted by the mechanisms and manifestations of capitalism.
I found the heart of the exhibit in this acceptance – we are informed by the imagery that surrounds us, that the urge to create is as powerful as the urge to consume, and that we can’t pretend to be above something we are emersed in.
One of my favorite pieces (pictured above) is a soothing invitation to forgive yourself for loving and wanting “things.” At the same time, the visual lexicon offers, or at least hints at, a haunting hollowness that the consumption of things can create. I love when art shares a feeling, not a lecture.
Certainly, the artist engages and critiques how art and meaning are confused in the presence of monetary value. Does our love of art as a “thing” diminish our love of the art? These questions are posed in non-judgmental nudges, never interrogation or condemnation.
A Room Full of Art exemplifies the artist’s swath of visual tools—striking, bold use of color amongst a repetition of fragmented imagery—in this gallery setting, a symbolic vocabulary emerges within and between the different works. The art largely defies categorization, more evidence of the artist’s outsider approach.
Throughout the space recognizable motifs—pop iconography and consumer symbolism—are familiar, fragmented reminders that perception of value can obfuscate how we make sense of the world.
There is an irony in the common language shared by capitalism and art (see: valuation, appreciation). The appearance of price tags on the art itself reiterates this question – is the art’s cost the art’s value?
The physicality of the space deepened the juxtaposition of art as “commodity” and “asset.” The shared visual language of commodification, again without crudely proselytizing anti-consumer, brought the question of commodification to center stage. Complete with clothing racks and installations, the tactile and immediacy of the curation in some ways, mimicked retail environment.
I was particularly absorbed by Adam’s film work presented on old CRT TV sets. The muddied resolution and abstract vantage created by the filmmaker’s gaze are otherworldly and intimate. Moving images mingling with static paintings, I found my eyes wandering and my thoughts wondering what lay behind and within the screen. The wide, bulky screens create the sense that there are whole worlds within the TV box. A Room Full of Art within a Room Full of Art.
It’s not surprising that the Southampton Cultural Center has supported the work Adam and Gail do for the community. Beyond this exhibit, Adam and Gail run the A&G Dance Company, hold concerts, and host workshops throughout the year. Make sure you stop by the Southampton Cultural Center before February 12 to see A Room Full of Art.
You can find Adam’s art online at AJBartspace.com and he is always posting content from his studio and upcoming film projects on his Instagram @adambaranello