Adam Fulwiler is a painter currently based in Fayetteville, AR. His paintings investigate communication, improvisation, and paintings capacity for transformation. He received his BA in painting from the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay ('17) and his MFA in painting from the University of Arkansas ('22). He is a recipient of the 2022 Windgate Foundation Accelerator Grant. He has shown in exhibitions in Arkansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Ohio, and New York. In addition to showing and making work, Fulwiler works as a Studio Educator for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR.
Growing up, I was always confused why my family and I couldn’t do certain things that many other families could like going to an amusement park or concert, not immediately realizing the debilitating effect those high-sensory environments had on my autistic brother. I quickly learned how to recognize those sensory triggers as I grew older. Where my family could go was always dictated by the sounds, crowds, and lights that would be present there. The distance that has been placed between us by moving to Fayetteville, Arkansas for graduate school made me conscious of how constantly aware I am of my sensorial environment. Even though my brother is not here with me, I continue to make plans determined by those same sorts of stimuli.
Reflecting on my childhood spent with my brother, who has autism, I establish a painted space that is both forcibly disjointed and meaningfully connected, invoking the uncertainty and complexity of perception and communication. Through chromatic nuance, physicality, representational ambiguity, and visual tempo, I invite the viewer into the act of slow looking—to encounter each work as a living, breathing, individual entity. My paintings investigate communication, improvisation, play, and painting’s capacity for transformation.
When I moved down to Fayetteville in the summer of 2019 to begin my studies, my brother rode along in the moving truck with me. To entertain himself, and as a result, entertain me as well, he created a chart to track multiple objects or types of vehicles found on the highway. Of course, there were the usual license plate states, but he also had items on his lists like trash bags, dead armadillos, furniture, and blown tire debris. He religiously kept records of everything for the entire drive. This tendency is relayed in my invention of tools, games, and puzzles in the studio. Finding ways to reawaken interest in something usually labeled as mundane or create new methods to forcibly slow down the process of making.
Other methods I employ to slow the process or create new opportunities for discovery are the invention of rules and aleatoric devices, mimicking an engagement with board games or puzzles, and pursuing a jazz-like improvisation within these restrictions. The result is an open, scrambled experience of space, like a jigsaw puzzle built from pieces sourced from multiple boxes. Spatial relationships and potential meanings seem to shift with every glance, suggestive of my own experiences reading imaginative and poetic writers like Haruki Murakami and Italo Calvino.
Provisional grids support tessellating blocks of color to create relationships of alternating friction and calm. I sew scraps of work together in a lyrical rhythm reminiscent of quilting, invoking logic of multiplicity and interconnectivity. Josef Albers observed that color behaves like a human “in two distinct ways: the first in self-realization and then in the realization of relationships with others.” I make paintings to better understand the relationship I have with my autistic brother and the way that experience of growing up has provided me with hyper-awareness of my sensorial environment.