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Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines

January 23, 2020 — March 29, 2020

Based largely on the Ulrich's uniquely rich holdings of works by Lee Adler (1926-2003), this exhibition reassessed the legacy of a forgotten artist and showed how the imagery he created in the 1960s and 1970s foreshadowed urgent present-day concerns about the way human lives have become intertwined with the technology that surrounds them.

A resident of Brooklyn at the very end of its industrial heyday, Adler came to art-making in his forties, having already established a successful career in marketing—he worked for a time at one of the advertising firms featured on the TV show Mad Men. He threw himself head first into his new pursuit throughout the late 1960s and 1970s. Adler contributed as his answer a visual vocabulary that was inspired by gears, cogs, engines, and processors, and yet remained remarkably tied to the forms of living things. At once whimsical and unnerving, Adler's compositions evoke processes of ingestion, digestion, and expulsion of matter as it moves through both living and mechanical systems. In Adler's work, the machines are humanized while human figures become machines, and his forms continue to capture something essential today about our reality as hapless cyborgs confused about where "nature" ends and technological culture begins.

Last exhibited at the Ulrich since 1991, Adler’s work was long overdue for greater exposure and reassessment. This exhibition was the first attempt anywhere to present Adler’s work in a retrospective fashion, showcasing the full scope of his interests through paintings, prints, sketchbooks, and archival materials.

Read the exhibition guide.

This exhibition was generously supported by Derek Adler and Noreen Weiss; Keith and Georgia Stevens; Lee and Ron Starkel; and the Reuben Saunders Gallery.



Watch Voices From the Vault: The 1970s | Kevin LaGrandeur on Lee Adler

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

Installation shot of Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machinesl, Ulrich Museum of Art, Spring 2020.

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Ulrich Museum of Art
Monday-Saturday 11am-5pm | Closed Sundays, University & Major Holidays
@ulrich.wichita.edu | Free Admission | 316.978.3664
1845 Fairmount; Wichita, KS 67260-0046
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Galleries open January 21, 2021. Please check for updates.
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