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Alicia Adamerovich

Poetics of Longing



Visual artist Alicia Adamerovich makes surreal figurative work spanning graphite drawing, painting, and carved sculpture. Inspired by painters like Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy, who constructed dream-like landscapes populated with other-worldly biomorphic forms, Adamerovich develops abstracted anthropomorphic shapes that grapple with emotion, sexuality, and politics of space. These forms stem from her unconscious thoughts and serve as vehicles for intense feelings, namely desire, and anxiety. Her work evokes these tense sensations as an opportunity for the viewer to burrow into a space of transition, where emotions of the unconscious meet those of the familiar, where art meets life, and where fiction meets reality. 

Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Adamerovich learned to draw at a young age and spent much of her childhood examining and illustrating the natural world, which has undoubtedly impacted the biomorphic quality of her work today. After receiving a BA in Design from Pennsylvania State University in 2013, Adamerovich worked as a graphic designer in the advertising industry in California. At the age of 26, she pivoted to fine art, and since then, she has been working as an artist full-time in Brooklyn. In the following essay, writer Emma Vecchione shares Adamerovich’s recent work, how it relates to our current moment, and what the artist has been up to in 2021.

Alicia Adamerovich at Palazzo Monti.

I first experienced Alicia Adamerovich’s drawing, Tunnel of Love, while scrolling through her online portfolio. Of course, in early spring—the dusk of enforced isolation—everything we did was still distanced, delimited by the frame of the computer screen, by the box of a Zoom window, by the corners of the plexiglass at the checkout of the bodega around the block. But as I peered into the pixels that made up Tunnel of Love, the distance between me and the art felt strangely tangible, immediate—like I could grasp an infinite scraggly rope between me and it. I found myself frantically combing the space between Adamerovich’s dark, jagged pencil marks in search of something more than oblivion. But I was palpably lost in negative space, trapped in emptiness.

Adamerovich primarily creates surreal graphite drawings and paintings, which she refers to as “psychological landscapes.” They give visual form to sensations that are otherwise inexpressible, exploring the nuanced emotional space between warmth and pain, which might explain my overwhelming and visceral reaction to Tunnel of Love. To make her work, she’ll often write down words or phrases that get stuck in her head and develop abstract forms that complement those words. In this sense, her practice is a form of emotional processing, of trying to parse through her own internal conundrums. The results are intense and deeply evocative: landforms that curve like mayonnaise in a particular separator and pierce like a cunning remark.

I spoke with Adamerovich via Zoom in early March. She was in residency in the French countryside at Moly-Sabata, where her studio space has an emotional intensity that mimics her work itself. It’s immense, with broad red oak wood ceiling beams, a wall of windows overlooking a gated garden, and worn, textured white walls adorned with a few in-progress abstract drawings. It’s easy to imagine her brooding by the window like a 19th century romantic poet, ogling the wild landscape. When I asked how living in Europe during the pandemic has affected her practice, Adamerovich remarked, “It’s funny– I was just talking about this with my therapist. I feel strangely at home here.”

Adamerovich, normally based in New York City, recently finished another residency at Palazzo Monti in Brescia, Italy, and her first two international solo shows will be in France this summer— at Sans Titre in Paris and Galeria Tator in Lyon. At the two exhibitions, she will present her newest series of ceramics, furniture-sculptures, paintings, and abstract drawings. “They’re like windows looking out into an environment of emotion,” she says of her two-dimensional work. 

For many of her newest drawings, Adamerovich constructs her own wooden frames, simulating the form of a whimsical window frame. She makes frames that curl into pigtails, that Pop! like onomatopoeia word bubbles, that look like raw eggs splattered on the floor. Often, she shapes them like drawings, shaving wood away and adding new pieces along the way, developing their curves and edges intuitively. Of the process of making her frames, she explains, “Making sculptural elements around the work feels very natural to me. I feel like it brings the world of the drawing a little closer to our world.”

What does it mean for a work of art to be a window? In the context of Adamerovich’s drawings and paintings, the open window is a particularly appropriate analogy. The window functions simultaneously as a threshold and barrier, guiding us into the immensity of her psychological landscapes while at the same time keeping us at a tangible distance from them. 

Staring at the sun, 2021, oil on canvas, 40 x 48 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
A bat out of hell, 2021, oil on linen wrapped panel, 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

For me, gazing at works like Tunnel of Love unearths memories of myself as an uncomfortable teenager standing at arm’s length from a date at a middle school dance, being told to “leave room for Jesus” by a proactive chaperone. Adamerovich’s drawings trap us at an uncomfortably close yet noticeably separate distance, leaving us with what might best be described as a sense of longing.

And sitting at my desk, peering at myself in my Zoom window and Alicia Adamerovich in hers, I realized that for much of the pandemic, our daily existence was defined by that exact feeling. Wherever we went, virtually or physically, we were enclosed in carefully curated boxed cubicles that simultaneously bounded us in and blocked us out, sparking an intense yearning for intimacy. And I can’t help but connect this feeling with Adamerovich’s work. When gazing at her framed drawings of psychological landscapes, the viewer becomes entangled in the space between her fictional world and our world, evoking intense and visceral emotions. We become consumed by that gap, and she shows that there is value in the act of spending time unraveling the loneliness and longing that sit in the liminal spaces of our emotions.

This story is from Issue Three.