If you ask Joseph Adolphe what he’s doing with those paints in his Westville backyard, he just might tell you: Boxing.
A documentary that will feature him says the same thing.
The film, called “Heavyweightpaint,” is being made by Jeff Martini. The work-in-progress features Adolphe (pictured above), a figurative painter, and three of his artist friends who presently work in Brooklyn, New York.
Adolphe and his wife Jill, are the parents of 7 children—6 daughters and a son—ranging in age from 13 years to 18 months. When Adolphe is not fully engaged in parenting his young family or carving out time for himself in his backyard studio on Central Avenue, he teaches drawing and painting at St. Johns University in Queens, New York.
Adolphe is currently represented by Westville’s Kehler Liddell Gallery and Bertrand Delacroix Gallery in New York City, and while his career has seen some success, he and the heavyweight crew are positioning themselves for even greater things.
The film follows four friends—Jerome Lagarrigue, Joseph Adolphe, Tim Okamura, and Taha Clayton—who share a strong work ethic, common goals and their love affair with paint as they collaborate on a super, “career defining” exhibit at the New York Art Director’s Club, an exhibit they hope will transcend the sum of its parts and draw the kind of attention that might be impossible to garner individually. Filming will continue through December to the film’s ostensible climax at the Art Directors Club, and perhaps a little after, according to director Martini.
While the exhibit serves a dramatic function in the film’s narrative, it is the individual character studies and their revelations about the creative process that is at the heart of the film.
“Heavyweightpaint” draws its title from the collective interests of the director and featured artists who view boxing as a rich metaphor for the act of painting and the challenges that confront both pugilist and painter. Martini, who is also composing an original musical score for the film, was himself a college boxer. Though admittedly not a great fighter, he said that boxing taught him a lot about life and he sees similarities with the act of painting: “You must let go and be in the moment when you box; once you start to think, you’re dead” he noted in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. Martini said that the each one of the artists had some association with boxing, either as a fan, or as in the case of painter Jerome Lagarrigue, painting boxers and their environs at the famed Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The boxing theme kept emerging as the film came together, with each artist adding his own take on the boxing connection, said the director.
For Adolphe, who does not mince words about the topic, boxing is the perfect metaphor for the tribulations that a painter experiences throughout his career: “Your talent is like a little flame, and for me painting is that little flame- I’ve spent all of my time for the last 25 years trying to prevent people from blowing it out. Circumstances of just living and the very impractical nature of being a painter and trying to keep a family together and keep the whole thing going and actually achieve some kind of growth and success - this is why boxing is such a nice metaphor for painting - you have to fight the world that just wants you to shut up - get in line, pay your bills, we don’t want to hear from you, and stop your silly little dreaming and give us your money.”
Whether or not the Art Director’s Club exhibit provides the breakthrough the artists envision, it is clear that Adolphe is making strides in his work and growth as a painter. His approach to painting has shifted away from a more academic, fussy approach to one of greater physicality. Risk-taking and spontaneity have taken on new importance as he seeks to reveal the transcendent qualities of the paint and the truths of his subjects.
In his studio, with the thick smell of oil paint emanating from a couple of his new, large- format paintings, Adolphe held a broad industrial-sized taping knife used by drywall installers, in an almost gladiatorial stance; “This is what I paint with now” he said, clearly relishing the tool’s liberating utility and the new direction in his work. “You paint how you live your life and my work is fueled by my teaching, my family, by the things I do” reflected Adolphe.
Support for the film project is being sought on Kickstarter.com, the online funding platform for creative projects, and is nearing its all-or-nothing funding deadline of June 15. For the heavyweight painters and director of this documentary, successful funding will help provide a lasting document of their quest and an intimate window on the painter’s world.