Adam Walls’s intimate engagement with steel links the divergent forms of his work. His sculptural output moves back and forth along a fairly broad spectrum of possibilities. At one end is the manipulation of raw steel into human-scaled, simplified forms, unfinished and left to rust (Mother and Child, Figures, Rings I and II). Such sculptures read largely as responses to the formal possibilities presented by the medium itself, but some are also imbued with a complex personal iconography. As other writers have noted, the details of the symbolism are only rarely available to viewers, and, in the case of Mother and Child, full comprehension also requires cooperative weather. (Displayed outside in the rain, the two components are placed so that water collecting in the larger form “feeds” the smaller one.) The personal, often autobiographical, content imbedded in many of Walls’s works, although interesting and sometimes profound, remains obscure, yet formal tensions effectively express the intensity, with or without access to the details. Works at the other end of Walls’s creative spectrum, his signature “tanks” and related pieces, are even more laden with convoluted personal meaning. There are clear and self-conscious links to Pop Art and popular culture, but Walls pushes beyond self-involved, if socially generated, introversion. Nor does he rely on the shock value of scatological and overtly sexual inferences so common in contemporary sculpture with a similar genealogy.
Mother and Child, 2008. Steel, 5 x 5 x 7 ft.
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