Finalist No. 4: Adam Griffiths a.k.a. Adam Dwight

Takoma Park, Md., artist Adam Dwight makes gouaches featuring figures that might populate gross-out comics, though they're more civilized than that. Think Mr. Smithers from "The Simpsons" as drawn by Dr. Seuss.
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who is this guy who was born Adam Griffiths but goes by Adam Dwight? He doesn't cotton to artistic branding, so his nom d'art isn't much of a concern. He'll likely adopt a new alias soon, so don't get attached to this one.

Dwight works in animation and on paper. The gouaches he uploaded to Real Art D.C. feature figures that might populate horror comics, though they're more civilized than that. Think Mr. Smithers from "The Simpsons" as drawn by Dr. Seuss. Dwight toys with space and narrative, offering quirky, often irrational, takes on both.

The 27-year-old artist thinks of his pictures as open-ended character studies. The scenes prompt many more questions than they answer. When I visited Dwight's Takoma Park studio, I hoped to resolve at least a few.

No such luck. When Dwight speaks about his work, you're lucky to get a straight answer. When I asked what some of them were about, he was happy to say that he's still trying to figure that out.

Some of his characters start out as 3-by-5-inch ink drawings. They're gems in their diminutive size and psychedelic content. I can only hope that these contorted figures and faces, with bodies and teeth going every which way, get a public showing one day.

Dwight also showed me his current project, "Anti-Majesty," a 3:42-long animation with sound. The action -- of which there is very little -- takes place in a domestic interior, a simple family room. The piece starts off with a man on the floor -- an old guy who looks like he fell, or got knocked off, a nearby piano bench -- and an oversize pair of scissors hovering in a doorway. Across the room, the fellow's haggard wife, who remains stationary save her trembling mouth, tells the disjointed story of her husband's drinking problem and phobias.

Open-ended indeed. The work is unfinished, sure, but I don't know that adding another figure (which Dwight plans to do) will clarify things much.

In search of guidance, I consulted Dwight's "Anti-Majesty" artist statement. Here I found sentences such as "I make humans who are unapologetic objects of bigotry, asking my audience to believe in their particular histories, relationships, and obsessions" and "I am attempting to break down the barrier between audience bias, storytelling and metaphor, using the vehicle of cartoons to etch the symbolism of these characters' lives into their flesh."

Huh? Adam, I know you like to keep it vague, but I fear that too much open-endedness looks like you don't know your own work. Coyness only travels so far.

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