As a co-founder of Visionaries & Voices and Thunder-Sky Inc., Adams transformed himself from a shy, lonely young man with a language disability into a confident leader who has shown in New York, Los Angeles and London. His mantra is to turn the negative into the positive. In this show, “bad celebrities” such as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan get “unrealized,” or outcast, and Adams’ friends, fellow artists, relatives and Frisch’s co-workers receive “special treatment in the spotlight” that turns them into new celebrities.
U&U is part art exhibit/part reality show, featuring paintings, sculpture, jewelry, a hand-drawn tabloid magazine, photographs, a red carpet and, for the opening, a buffet to celebrate Adams’ 31st birthday, which is Aug. 22.
The bright, detailed masterwork at the center of the show, titled “Unrealized and Unforeseen Day,” is spellbinding. In Adams’ folk-art/comic-book/pop-culture style, the scene feels like the jacket of Sgt. Pepper’s layered over the cover of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures (by fellow outsider artist Howard Finster).
Dozens of Adams’ friends and relatives are packed before him, faces full of admiration and anticipation. Peering over the walls are soon-to-be outcasts, tearful and glaring — among them Sheen, Lohan, Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson and Michael Jackson. In the distance are silhouettes of quasi-celebrities and newsmakers in need of intervention and rehabilitation: stars of Teen Mom and Toddlers & Tiaras, plus Casey Anthony, Jerry Sandusky and Conrad Murray, the King of Pop’s physician. On the side of the canvas are the angels of late artists Brian Joiner and Raymond Thunder-Sky, two men to model.
Adams has set simple rules in exchange for his loyalty. After he “adopts” friends for special treatment, he promises “to keep personal life’s in private,” and he expects them to do the same. Other rules: “Respect 1 another.” “Be yourself who you really are as a character.” “Be nice.” Adams is no-nonsense about calling out celebs for DUIs and assaults, yet in his kingdom of justice, he just wants them to get everyday jobs as doctors, firefighters or restaurant workers and never be seen on TV or in a magazine again.
That popularity is the opposite of what Adams experienced when he was 18 or 19. Adams will speak about that period on opening night.
In his U&U magazine, Adams confidently predicts the American Idol judges will score his one-man show at “150%.” And why not? But when you go to gawk at the new celebrities, do remember one of Adams’ rules: “Don’t do nothin stupid.”
UNREALIZED AND UNFORESEEN: NEW WORKS BY ANTONIO ADAMS opens 6-10 p.m. Friday and runs through Oct. 13 at Thunder-Sky Inc., 4573 Hamilton Ave., Northside. 513-823-8914; raymondthundersky.org. Showing in the Under-Sky basement, Monsters of the World: Drawings by Andrew Cole, boyhood drawings on binder paper by a Princeton University professor.