Robert Adams (1917-1984) rose to prominence in the 1960's. He lived in London before moving to Saint Ives until his final years, when he lived in an isolated cottage near Great Maplestead in Essex. During his lifetime he received numerous international commissions, including a large relief for the new Gelsenkirchen theatre in Germany in 1959, where he worked alongside Yves Klein, another recipient of a commission. In 1962, Adams was selected for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
It was during this last period of his career that Robert Adams abandoned the welded and bronzed steel which characterised much of his early work, and took to casting in bronze. From the outset, he cast editions of 6 plus 0. Casting in bronze usually allows a sculptor to multiply the effort required to prepare the single mould, since copies of it are identical. But in Adams' case, both the preparation of the mould and the casting were laborious processes. Rather than work from a plaster cast, Adams sculpted his forms out of wood, which then required sanding down before receiving several layers of white paint. Adams chose a commercial engineering foundry in Brightlingsea, rather than a fine-art foundry. His foundry was more used to casting parts for marine engines and Adams was a rare outsider with a different set of requests.
Nevertheless, he employed the same sand moulds as those made for the commercial castings, rather than the lost wax process associated with fine art foundries. The resulting casts were returned to the artist in a rough and ready form, heavy as a result of the massive, solid bronze, pitted and seamed. A great deal of studio work was required to grind down, smooth and polish. Adams experimented with different methods to obtain a variety of finishes, using chemicals, stiff brushes, emery paper and wax or clear lacquer.
The bronzes in the current exhibition show how Robert Adams' sculptures took shape with reference to his new material. He worked on a series, known as the slim bronzes, which found echo in a variety of vertical, organic shapes. Adams has been linked, correctly, with geometric abstractionists such as Victor Pasmore, Kenneth and Mary Martin. In his bronzes, he moves away from this idiom to a more organic expression, with rounded edges and especially, the use of wave forms or folds. The slender shapes are variously elongated or breached and, in the final works, Adams applies a patina which glows in deep brown.