Littoral Images: Metaphors and Footnotes from the Shore


    February 26, 2023 – March 19, 2023

    Gajah Gallery Jakarta


    Gajah Gallery Jakarta proudly presents Adam de Boer’s first Jakarta solo exhibition titled Littoral Images: Metaphors and Footnotes from the Shore. This solo exhibition encompasses Adam’s persistent independent research of his heritage as an Indo-American artist as well as the batik colet technique. The resulting artwork strikes the delicate balance between in-text and in-practice investigation of the nuanced interregional history between Indonesia, Europe, and America.

    Encounters at the shoreline have birthed our collective history. So much of our global narrative has been wrapped up in complicated feelings between desire and disappointment, curiosity and apprehension, comfort and fear that have been mutually experienced by those peering out to sea from the shore and those looking towards the beach over miles of water. A contestation of one’s perspective, littorally, not literally. Through this exhibition, Adam takes up the challenge of bringing up difficult conversations about globalized existence and identity by using the sea as a mnemonic for the discourse.

    ‘Littoral’ (an indefinite border between the land and sea) encompasses Adam’s current body of work that presents an aggregate of coastal images distinct in scale, palette, and narrative. Despite the title being homophonic to the word ‘literal’, the works in Littoral Images need to be read contextually so that the seemingly disparate vistas become a cohesive tale interwoven through their associations with the sea.

    The necessity for non-literal reading of the artworks is in line with Adam’s cultural background. As a diasporic individual, Adam’s knowledge of the region and its history comes often from research rather than direct and lived observation. Because of the cultural distance Adam has gone through, his method of footnoting and referencing leaves an apparent trace in this exhibition in the way that the paintings routinely cross-reference each other. Some of the paintings in this exhibition provide context to another artwork, while some parallel each other as conceptual antitheses. More than just internal conversation within the artworks in the show, Adam also dedicates and references other traveller-artists in his work – Annah the Javanese (After Gauguin), Studio Window at Teluk Gerupuk (After Spilliaert), Littoral Images, for A.B. (After Elms), paintings that are an homage to those whom he knows personally as his contemporaries as well as those that came before him. Further than just the visual arts, Adam also references literature pieces such as Anthony Burgess’s 1964 trilogy The Long Day Wanes, Karen Tei Yamashita’s 1997 novel Tropic of Orange, and cultural artifacts such as the cordiform projection map and the Fool’s Cap map.

    The indefinite nature of the ‘Littoral’ zone can also be interpreted as representing Adam’s in-between cultural identity as an Indo-Dutch-American, which Adam has explored in the past decade by incorporating traditional Javanese craft as a medium. The pieces in this series are created with the batik colet technique that imbues a pictorial quality and puzzle-like image-making logic to the artworks. In this aspect, the word ‘Littoral’ then also encompasses the tension between the inherent cultural aesthetic of the wax-resist batik painting techniques and the urban subject matter in his paintings.

    Lastly, just as crucial as the in-depth cultural research and technical virtuosity that the artist has, Adam’s love for surfing and frequent encounters with the sea have endowed him with a keen sensitivity to depict bodies of water both naturalistically and metaphorically, making Littoral Images a one-of-a-kind show made especially for this opportunity in Jakarta.

    Saturday, 18 March 2023 | 3 – 5 PM

    3.00PM Afternoon Tea
    3.30PM In Conversation with Adam de Boer and Liza Markus
    4.30PM Artist-Guided Tour of Littoral Images

    Join artist Adam de Boer and exhibition writer Liza Markus, for an afternoon of art and conversation, reflecting on the artist’s development in his practice.

    Through this talk, we will be drawing the red thread that connects the various styles Adam has gone through; from his formalistic training in oil painting, his first encounter with Javanese craft in 2012, his extensive Fulbright research in Yogyakarta in 2017, his practice in California, to the current exhibition Littoral Images: Metaphors and Footnotes from the Shore.

    The talk will conclude with a Q&A session with attendees.


    Adam de Boer (b.1984) graduated with a BA in Painting from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2006) and an MA in Fine Art from the Chelsea College of Art, London (2012). Recent exhibitions include Gajah Gallery, Jakarta and Singapore (2023, 2022); Ben Brown Fine Arts, London and Hong Kong (2022); Taymour Grahne Projects, London (2022); The Hole, New York and Los Angeles (2022, 2023); Hunter Shaw Fine Art, Los Angeles (2020/2018); World Trade Centre, Jakarta (2018); and Art|Jog, Yogyakarta (2018/2015)

    De Boer is currently a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellow and in 2017 was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Java, Indonesia. Other grants include those from the University of the Arts, London + Arts for India, The Cultural Development Corporation, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and The Santa Barbara Arts Fund.

    Growing up in Southern California as a first-generation American, de Boer almost unconsciously accepted his American identity. His family’s American identity, however, was deliberately adopted. Theirs was birthed by politically-forced migration from Dutch-Indonesia and reinforced by assimilation into midcentury Southern California life—a process that implicitly demanded that they pack away their grief and sense of dislocation. De Boer’s artistic practice revives his family’s Indonesian cultural history and aesthetic traditions nearly erased by acculturation. This exploration of heritage draws on Western painting history and Javanese traditional batik craft to acknowledge that rather than an exception, the trauma of dislocation, complexity of cultural hybridity, and spiritual strength required of the migrant experience are intrinsic aspects of Americanness and many other cultures as well. His work highlights how sustained engagement with cultural difference and acknowledgement of injustice is essential to build truly inclusive societies.

    Twin Tempests


    Acrylic Paint Staining and Oil Paint on Linen, 117 x 102.5 cm (2 panels)

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