Quiet Madness: The Gothic Abstract at Ro2 Art Downtown Projects

Firmament - 2012 - Lithograph
Firmament - 2012 - Lithograph
Images courtesy Adam Rowlett / The McKinney Avenue Contemporary.

It looked like UNT grad student Adam Rowlett was going to get screwed over when Mercantile Coffee House, the original venue for Gothic Abstract and site of the MAC's community outreach program to bring emerging artists into downtown Dallas, suddenly closed halfway through the show's run.

Enter Roths Susan and Jordan, the mother-son team behind Ro2 Art, offering some choice wall space at their Akard Street location so Rowlett could see this exhibition through. Rowlett is pursuing an MFA in printmaking and his subject looks kind of churchy, so it would take a bit of a heartwarming human interest story like that to even get me in the door.

Rowlett might have focused this show on a discernible subject--religion or science or architecture, since he borrows formal elements that suggest all the above. First glance fools you into believing you know what you're looking at, then the doubt sets in: Is it a telescope? A rocket? The interior of Reims Cathedral or a depiction of the chemical properties of water? Rejecting any concrete subject, his work is an alchemical hybrid of shapes, lines, and suggestions that we associate with certain lofty institutions, but those familiar signs are dallied with, obscuring any associations in delicate materials, exacting artistic precision, and the resulting stark, stand-alone beauty.

Adam Rowlett - Untitled (Apse) 2012 - Lithograph
Adam Rowlett - Untitled (Apse) 2012 - Lithograph

No detail is neglected. The edges of the paper are frayed, contrasting with the extreme precision of the designs. Church spires go viral, lines form things cellular or universal then change their minds and go rogue, blobs happen but not by accident. It's madness. But it's quiet madness.

Rowlett's saturation of familiar clues to what you think you might be seeing keeps you locked in front of any given work, and softer shapes start to appear the longer you look. Even the titles and signature are so lightly inscribed that they're barely discernible. (Having to look at the work through glass does not help reveal these subtleties, but that's the unfortunate nature of the exhibition beast.)

Rowlett's pure suggestion had me straddling the visceral and the intellectual, at times even feeling momentarily religious, which, my friends, is no small feat. This work is gothically, abstractly bad ass.

More please.

Adam Rowlett: Gothic Abstract runs through September 8th at Ro2 Art Downtown Projects, 110 North Akard Street.

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Ro2 Art Uptown

3699 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204



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