'Art Man' Bryant K. Adams seeks to beautify D.C. through found art
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
You've probably seen the "Art Man" whizzing around D.C. on a vintage bicycle, with a blue child's chair attached to a six-foot-high pole attached to his bicycle seat. Like a flag, the little blue chair sways in the draft. The chair and the Art Man dodge in and out of traffic.
The chair riding high above all.
The Art Man, speeding down the street, oblivious to stares, on some kind of mission.
People fixate on the Art Man in his black French beret, World War II goggles, white doctor's coat covered in paint, hands covered in paint, boots covered in paint.
There he goes down Martin Luther King Boulevard past Good Hope Road.
And watch: He's stopping at that blue horse standing outside an art gallery on W Street SE. Across the street from the Big Chair, that famous Anacostia landmark.
The Art Man turns the key to the rented space where his I Am Art Experience Gallery is located and goes inside where more mystery lies. He moves through his studio explaining things. In the corner are three sculptures of women sitting cross-legged. The sculptures are made of foil and are actual molds and imprints of real women. "I can't tell you how I got the real women out of there," says the Art Man, whose real name is Bryant K. Adams.
Adams is a former cafe owner and former trucking company owner who is now devoting his attention to creating street art to beautify this city. Make people think. Cut into the dullness of routine, draw in the curiosity of youth, spread art so far and wide in this city that people's minds are expanded. Because if you are thinking about art, you can't be doing much wrong.
He has constructed art for public viewing throughout the city: another blue chair on a pole, this one attached to a bike in the front yard of a house in Northwest; a ladder swinging from the top of an abandoned building in Southeast; an arrangement of suicide-prevention poles from a bridge in a field in Northeast. Screeching in the wind. People drive by and wonder: "What in the hell is that? Who in the hell is putting this stuff up around the city?" The Hill Rag ran a short series of articles asking about the "mystery chair" that Adams installed in a vacant field. "Who put up the mystery chair?" the headline asked.
Throughout the city, Adams has pasted photos of himself proclaiming: "I AM ART." On paint cans, coffee cups, utility boxes, all prompting one person to ask on the New Columbia Heights blog: "Lately I've noticed a lot of these stickers around the neighborhood -- it's a guy in goggles with the caption 'I AM ART.' They're kind of neat, though I'm not an art expert so I'm not sure who is depicted -- or if it's a famous person at all. Anybody able to enlighten me?"
That is exactly the kind of question Adams wants people to ask: Who is he? What does he want? Who is the mystery man obsessed with spreading art.
"I want people to elevate their minds," he says. He is sitting in a coffee shop on H Street NE. He is covered in paint, a walking Matisse. He dresses this way all the time because that is how an artist should dress, he says. Even when he goes to church.