Never Grow Up: Paintings by Adam Umbach


PRESS RELEASE: Never Grow Up: Paintings by Adam Umbach, Apr 20 - Jun  3, 2023
April 4, 2023, New York, NY —Cavalier Galleries is delighted to announce Never Grow Up—a solo exhibition of new mixed media paintings by Brooklyn-based artist Adam Umbach. Umbach’s paintings combine realism, expressionist gestures, layers of pattern, bold color fields, and intuitive mark-making in works that offer viewers a range of aesthetic and emotional experience. Often evoking nostalgia for childhood play and simpler modes of being, the paintings embrace the freedom and power of raw feelings and wild imaginings, all within compositions structured by the artist’s mastery of form and color. The exhibition opens Thursday, April 20, with an artist reception from 6–8 p.m., and runs through Saturday, June 3, 2023 at 530 W. 24th Street, New York, NY 10011.
Umbach is a biographical painter who strives to create works that exist in more symbolic than literal realms, such that they might also speak to the personal narratives of others. Born in Chicago, Umbach lived in Islesboro, Maine and in East Hampton, New York before settling into his artistic community in Brooklyn. The colors of his paintings are sometimes reminiscent of a Long Island sunset, or the hues of the Atlantic during a New England winter. Such natural inspirations often combine with elements that evoke the architecture and street art of his New York City home.
Umbach’s canvases feature recognizable objects, drawn from the artist’s personal and familial iconography, portrayed in stunning detail against more formal experimentations with abstraction. His paintings vibrate with pleasing tensions among expansive color fields; roughly textured, expressive linework; areas of impasto; playful patterns; cartoonish abstraction, and varying degrees of realism. Viewers gravitate to objects from their own childhoods such as the bear-shaped honey container with its conical yellow cap, Lego building bricks, a much-loved teddy bear, or a rubber ducky bath time companion. Umbach finds inspiration in nature, embodied in his larger-than-life depictions of butterflies, bumblebees, and goldfish; in Americana, such as a vintage Volkswagen Beetle and pink flamingo lawn ornaments; and in travel, with a recent series of paintings based on cat dolls he encountered in a Parisian shop window.
There is an intentional duality to Umbach’s work which he achieves through a process of painting first with his dominant right hand, constructing a planned composition. Later, he uses his left hand to introduce more intuitive and experimental elements, consistently pushing his own artistic boundaries. He returns to certain subject matter in series of personal, temporal explorations much as a landscape painter might return to the same vista at different times of day and seasons of the year until she has exhausted its wealth of possibility and instruction.
Humor and playfulness are central to Umbach’s work. Coupled with his formidable skill as a painter, and a canny ability to surface emotional depths, the work conveys the confidence and maturity of an artist well beyond his 37 years. Umbach uses a variety of media in his paintings on canvas and on fabric, including oil, aerosol paint, enamel, and oil stick. No matter the tool, his employment of it communicates an inherent joy in the making, and a thoughtfulness in every brushstroke and passage.
Umbach says that he has spent much of his life feeling unmoored, due to a series of geographic relocations beginning in childhood as well as several deep personal losses. Art has always provided him with a place of safety and serenity, an avenue for expression, catharsis, and growth. His first serious paintings as student-turned-professional-artist had frequent undercurrents of isolation, drifting, and loneliness. Since meeting his wife in spring of 2019, and moving to New York City later that year, his paintings have gradually come to reflect the sense of community, partnership, and chosen family he feels in the home he and his wife have created for themselves in Brooklyn.
Never Grow Up is the title Adam Umbach chose for his first solo exhibition in New York City. The artist explains that it is both a nod to the whimsy in his work as well as a defiant rejoinder to those who continually advised him to “grow up” and leave the dream of being a painter behind. “Being a professional artist requires diligence, fortitude, sacrifice, persistence, and self-discipline in spades—qualities most of us inherently associate with adulthood,” Umbach says. “Equally vital are the creativity, imagination, free spiritedness, and, indeed, fun that are essential to human thriving at any age. In my mind, making art is the best of both worlds.”
EXHIBITION CATALOG, featuring an essay by Emily Colucci, available online: Never Grow Up: Paintings by Adam Umbach
Press Contacts:
Additional images and exhibition catalog available on request
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and by appointment.