Tracey Adams’ canvases morph naturally.

Shape Shifter: Tracey Adams, “9 Ammonites,” 2004, Encaustic and oil on panel

 Two exhibitions of encaustic paintings by Tracey Adams, one at the Monterey Museum of Art, the other at the Chris Winfield Gallery in Carmel, feature the newest developments in the artist’s work.

In the past, Adams divided canvases into rectangular, grid-like areas that featured emblematic images such as a primitive boat or house shape; references to nature, such as a tree or seedpod; and geometric elements, such as a circle or spiral. In this current body of work, the artist has eschewed the symbolic painted imagery to emphasize the relationships among geometric elements.

In the exhibition of paintings at the Monterey Museum, The Symmetry of Asymmetry, Adams has collaged into the waxy surfaces seeds or fossil shells. These occasional happenings evoke ideas like potency or growth, but the real drama occurs between the tumultuous skeins of pigment everywhere and the formality of the Golden Section—a system of proportion known to engineers, architects and artists since antiquity—utilized repeatedly. In the end, the formality dominates the visual dance—the overall effect of the work is one of cool organization.

In Adams’ paintings, rectangular sections and bars interact to create a harmonious experience. One senses her ordered universe in these abstractions, even if it is an imposed order, with the smooth surfaces and balanced proportions overriding the turgid paint handling within the encaustic medium.

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Photography PastForward, Aperture at 50 and Tracey Adams’ opening at the Monterey Museum of Art are on Sat., Jan. 22. A members’ only opening reception happens on Jan. 21 from 6-8pm. The exhibitions run through April 24. 372-5477. Adams’ paintings are also shown at the Chris Winfield Gallery, Dolores between Ocean and 7th, Carmel. 624-3369.

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