Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / May 03, 2016 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Chicago artist Adam Siegel is nationally recognized for the breadth of his work as an abstract painter and photographer. Known for his large-scale works, Siegel presents a soulful refinement to the contemporary category. Influenced deeply by his time in Japan, the artist merges two distinct sensibilities—East and West—with compositions that showcase an elusive and elegant balance of both.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

While Siegel has spent the last 39 years traveling, collecting, and creating a powerful body of work influenced by the visual poetry and elegant simplicity of the traditional Japanese aesthetic, he is also an artist of the modern day. Siegel has been experimenting for 15 years with a proprietary system using capture technology primarily used for military intelligence. Employing new technology and drawing from his collected imagery, Siegel creates paintings and collages that lend emotional resonance to both eras. His works meld the Internet's ceaseless capacity to stream constant images, while echoing the authority of anonymous histories and lost treasures. Experience has allowed Adam to master a technique where there is no trace or residue of digital technology. His compositions bridge new to old, high to low, reverie to the achingly simple. 

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Siegel's pedigree is as layered as his canvases. The Chicago-born artist was raised in an artistic family. His father, Arthur Siegel, was a world-renowned photographer and author; his mother, Irene Siegel, is a multi media artist. As a young child, his earliest influences were Bauhaus masters such as László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who were often guests at his parents' dinner table.
 
Siegel pursued Japanese studies at Oberlin College and Waseda University in Tokyo. The karesansui (zen rock gardens) of Kyoto fascinated him, and he was captivated by their design, grace, and restraint while living in Japan. This yearning for a deeper understanding of karesansui guided him to the monks who understood their secrets. Ultimately, Siegel was honored with the rare invitation to actually rake the most famous rock garden in Ryoan-ji temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This profound experience shaped his art, as well as his own personal collection, a trove of more than 10,000 works from the 17th and 18th centuries encompassing quixotic manuscripts, bookplates, Japanese kimono designs, natural history works, and hard-to-find editions. He acts as a curator of historical imagery morphing these obscure images into current culture. Siegel sees this assemblage as archetypes directly informing the voice of his work. He regards his personal collection as Prima materia, a metaphor of alchemy, one that affords him the opportunity to harness the energy of pieces that have survived more than two centuries and channel that energy into dynamic works for today.

"I have spent over 39 years building my library of antiquities," he says. "Each artifact is a pulsing, brilliant reference that inspires me. Every piece reveals beauty from the past, but also compels me to think of the present, to consider what it is to be human and vulnerable. My work is an articulation of that archetype: I uncover rare and forgotten elements and infuse them with my personal vision. All artists are bound by dedication to their craft, and in this age when skills and techniques are fading, I am draw even more to the potency of process—that is my contribution to this continuum." 

For almost four decades, private collectors and noteworthy institutions have invested in Siegel's work. Showcased in a variety of environments—be it a residence or unique public art project, capturing his affecting version of placemaking—the artist's collection is diverse and extensive. In 2001, the Museum of Contemporary Art partnered with Siegel to create a memorial piece titled "Path of Remembrance." Stretching the better part of one mile, the work provided Chicagoans with a collective means to mourn and commemorate the terrorist attacks of September 11. After acquiring 68 paintings and photographs, the well-regarded Northwestern Specialists for Women clinic mounted what has become his mid-career retrospective in 2008.

More recently, one of Chicago's acclaimed James Beard recipients and Michelin-star chef has acquired an 8-foot Siegel painting for a new concept-restaurant.  Another special project featured an over-sized kimono painting for the prestigious Lake Forest Showhouse with HGTV celebrity designer Monica Pedersen in 2011. Additional large-scale painting installations include the 600 North Michigan Avenue building, Everest Restaurant, Westin Hotel, and a spirited Bank of America project entitled, "Map of Imagination," which had Siegel filling the 5,000-square-foot glass atrium lobby with streams of color.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Receiving both a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Art Council, Siegel has exhibited in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Tokyo. He has exhibited at Chicago's Around the Coyote art festival for 18 years with sold out shows eight years in a row. In addition, Siegel has shown at Art Expo Chicago, Arts Club of Chicago and Chicago's famed Merchandise Mart.  His work has been featured in esteemed local and national media outlets including Art in America, New York Times, Antiques & Arts Weekly, Luxe Interiors + Design, Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Where Magazine, Key Magazine, New Art Examiner, CBS, WGN, NBC, CLTV, and WBEZ.

Currently residing in Chicago, Siegel paints and photographs in his West Fulton Market studio.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

How long have you been an artist?
I've been an artist for 40 years and then some....actually longer! I was nervous when I was a kid and everything I touched I wanted to manipulate and change to see the world differently.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Is your art your full-time career?
Yes. Art is more than a full-time career. It's a way of looking at the world and seeing your life differently every day through every moment.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Where do you work?  How long have you been there?
I work in the studio. I work in the shower. I work at home. I work at night. My studio is 5000 square feet; I've been here for 7 years. Every day it's a different space for me.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

What does a typical day look like?  Is there a typical day?
There is no typical day.  Every day you make something new and you see yourself differently.

What materials do you prefer?
I love photography. I love paint. I love watercolor. I love collage.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Where/How are you inspired?
I get inspiration from the nature around me but particularly by doing the work. It inspires ideas and moves you forward into an unknown space.

How do you know when your piece is done?
There are many ways and many strategies to know if a piece is finished.  The first- if you want to throw it in the garbage can because it doesn't work.  The second way is that the piece is to the point where you can't take it any further. It talks to you and vibrates.  It moves, it's alive.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

Do you work on one or more pieces at a time?
I work on multiple pieces at a time and throughout my life. Some pieces I pull out of the racks after 10 years and it's only then I know how to resolve then and I move forward in an instant.

If you were not a painter/sculptor/photographer, etc., what would you do?
If I wasn't a painter I would be a chef or a pianist or probably both.

Artist of the Month: Adam Siegel

How can our readers find and purchase your art?
People can find me at http://www.adamsiegel.com - they can reach out to me, come to my studio and buy work if they are so moved.

Would you like to share anything else with us?
That I am crippled by my love for the vulnerability that nature offers us. There is such beauty, such magnificence and such corruption and disrespect shown by the human race who is ignorant to its' own impermanence.

 

Learn more:

http://www.adamsiegel.com/

 

Photos courtesy and copyright Adam Siegel