Ryan Adams is willing to go the distance for charity. In fact, the rocker-cum-author-cum-painter will even alter his artwork especially for YOU — as along as the price is right.
“I can just change them if they’re not good. I’ve got some more orange and blue paints, ya know!” Adams told the star-studded crowd at Wednesday night’s opening at New York City’s Morrison Gallery, where the newlywed artist debuted a collection of his paintings in an auction benefiting the Housing Works AIDS charity. Bidders included members of the Black Keys and Sam Roberts Band, and Weeds‘ Mary-Louise Parker.
His enthusiasm worked. A pair of 8×8 foot self-portraits sold for nearly $3,000, bringing the total for the night to $12,000 — a hefty donation to the charity. Guest auctioneer Jesse Malin hawked the artworks from a makeshift three-foot-tall stage.
The night was a coming out party of sorts for Adams, who has recently shunned the spotlight, shifting his focus from music to writing and painting. Adams — who still releases the occasional song on his blog — was on hand to sign copies of his book of poetry, Infinity Blues, which came out in April (his second, Hello Sunshine, hits stores in December).
As the Morrison Hotel’s first “Artist in Residence,” Adams painted many of the works during the past few weeks in the front room of the gallery, which is next door to the Bowery’s now defunct rock mecca CBGB.
In the gallery’s front window, Adams hung cut-out characters voicing tongue-in-cheek sayings: “The Bowery Is for Bums, Not Art,” “Joey Ramone Is Turning Over In His Grave,” and “Not Funny Mr. Adams.” Inside, hundreds of multi-colored balloons overran the space, and each wall was completely covered with Adams’ work.
The pieces varied from large, impressionistic canvases done in bright oil paints — including city skylines and contorted faces of women — to collages using newspaper scraps, broken headphones, and scribbles giving insight to his mood at the time they were created. One piece, sassily called “Excuse Me!,” had chicken scratch “Fuck You”s on a beige canvas. Another depicted one of his favorite pastimes: video games. Adams based it on a fictional arcade game he calls “Blah Blah.”
Next to each work was a small instruction, often illustrated, courtesy of Adams. “Stop fucking looking at me. Yours [sic] here for the paintings!,” read one, coming from the mouth of a deformed mermaid character.
The works were impressionistic, inspiring, and unified in color and feeling — something the rocker planned from the get-go.
“I like to have five different paintings going at once, and I paint from the can, so my mix of a blue or green from one painting will end up in another,” Adams told SPIN. “So they all have a relationship in the color, not just the theme. And that really unified the work.”
Adams compared his newfound artistic endeavor to the one he knows best. “It’s like working on a tune. It’s like, ‘That one has a crazy ending or this fucking wild bridge, it’s so good,’ so maybe the next one should be simpler but loud. It’s that kind of thing for me. It’s the same parallel.”
Adams’ exhibit at the Morrison Hotel continues through October 15.