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Ron Adams

Printmaker Ron Adams is a former commercial printmaker and current independent artist who has taught at several universities and collaborated with artists such as John Biggers and Judy Chicago. He was born on June 25, 1934, in Detroit, Michigan to Laura and William Adams. Adams took classes at numerous art schools throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s, including Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Manual Arts Adult Night School, Los Angeles City College, UCLA and the University of Mexico. These classes gave him a broad base of experience in technical skills such as drafting, technical illustration, lithography, and engraving, as well as the more standard drawing and painting. He received a certificate of trade proficiency from Otis College of Art and Design in 1963.

Adams used his technical expertise to become a successful commercial printer. In 1968, while studying at the University of Mexico, Adams designed the poster, murals, and motif for the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. Upon his return to the United States, Adams went to work at the prestigious Gemini G.E.L. printing workshop in Los Angeles, where he quickly moved from the position of assistant printer to that of master printer. In 1973, he left Gemini to work as a master printer for Editions Press in San Francisco. A year later, Adams moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to found his own printing company, Hand Graphics Ltd. While there, he also worked as a guest instructor in the printmaking department of the University of Texas in El Paso in 1981, and chaired the Santa Fe Committee for Low-Cost Studio Space for Artists in 1985. Adams sold Hand Graphics Ltd. in 1987 and retired from commercial printing to focus on producing his own artwork. He has since served as artist-in-residence at Hampton University in Virginia in 1989 and at Tougaloo Art Colony in Mississippi in 2002.

Adams has been featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery in Nashville, and the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque, among others. His work was included in a travelling exhibition of prints and drawings sent to the USSR by the US State Department in 1966. Pieces by Adams appear in the collections of such noted museums as the California Afro-American Museum in Los Angeles, the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and the Bronx Museum in the Bronx, as well as in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

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Northwestern High School

Sampson Elementary School

Los Angeles Trade Technical College

Otis College of Art and Design

University of California, Los Angeles

Academy of San Carlos

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Preferred Audience: Any



Favorite Vacation Destination

Central America

Favorite Quote

For A Long Life, Keep Your Mouth Shut And Your Bowels Open.

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Favorite Food

Salmon, Poultry, Soul Food, Mexican Food

Short Description

Printmaker and graphic designer Ron Adams (1934 - ) worked as a fine art printmaker at the Gemini G.E.L. studio, where he printed the works of artists like Robert Rauschenberg. He also created his own lithographic prints and collaborated with John T. Biggers and Charles Wilbert White.


Mission Appliance Service

Hughes Aircraft Company

Litton Industries, Inc.

Gemini G.E.L. LLC

Hand Graphics LLC

Editions Press

University of Texas at El Paso

Hampton University

Memphis College of Art

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ron Adams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ron Adams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ron Adams remembers his mother's profession and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ron Adams talks about his maternal grandmother, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ron Adams talks about his maternal grandmother, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ron Adams remembers his father's personality and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ron Adams describes his paternal grandfather's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ron Adams describes his paternal grandfather's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ron Adams describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ron Adams talks about his neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ron Adams remembers his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ron Adams talks about his neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ron Adams remembers his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ron Adams talks about his early interest in drawing

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ron Adams describes his experiences at Northwestern High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ron Adams talks about his move to California

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ron Adams remembers meeting his first wife

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ron Adams recalls how he came to be a technical illustrator

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ron Adams describes the technical illustration program at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ron Adams describes his career as a technical illustrator in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ron Adams describes his decision to attend the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ron Adams remembers his professors at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ron Adams recalls the cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ron Adams talks about his reasons for moving to Mexico City, Mexico

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ron Adams remembers his arrival in Mexico City, Mexico

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ron Adams describes the process of lithography

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ron Adams describes the processes of etching and engraving

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ron Adams recalls how he came to work at Gemini G.E.L. LLC in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ron Adams describes how he became the graphic designer for the 1968 Summer Olympics

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ron Adams talks about the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City, Mexico

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ron Adams talks about his involvement in the protest movements of the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ron Adams describes his work at Gemini G.E.L. LLC in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ron Adams describes the role of a master printer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ron Adams talks about the difference between fine art prints and commercial prints

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ron Adams talks about printer's proofs and artist's proofs

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ron Adams describes his decision to open a printing studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ron Adams talks about the Hand Graphics LLC studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ron Adams remembers working with Charles Wilbert White

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ron Adams talks about the process of publishing a print

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ron Adams recalls his guest lectures

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ron Adams recalls meeting his third wife

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ron Adams talks about his artist residencies

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ron Adams describes his family's impressions of his career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ron Adams talks about his print, 'Blackburn'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ron Adams describes his print, 'Profile in Blue'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ron Adams remembers his relationship with the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ron Adams describes his decision to move to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ron Adams describes his hobbies

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ron Adams talks about the arts community in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ron Adams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ron Adams shares his advice to aspiring artists

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ron Adams reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ron Adams narrates his photographs







Ron Adams describes his work at Gemini G.E.L. LLC in Los Angeles, California
Ron Adams remembers working with Charles Wilbert White
So now, let's go back to 1969 through '73 [1973], and talk to me more about your work at Gemini G.E.L. [Gemini G.E.L. LLC, Los Angeles, California].$$Oh that was, it was a wonderful experience for me because I had to learn the very basics in printmaking, but not very, to the extent that they did it at Gemini G.E.L., because I mean most of the artists that were there were a lot of New York [New York] blue chip artists. And there's a lot of various positive things that happened there, experienced. I met a lot of wonderful friends that we're still in contact today on a monthly or weekly basis, a lot of the guys I worked with then. They worked the hell out of you, because I mean I remember one instance, for instance we were working with, shortly after they did the moon walk on the moon, we were working with Bob Rauschenberg [Robert Rauschenberg], and they had this project that they were gonna do a series of the moon thing ['Stoned Moon,' Robert Rauschenberg]. He was invited to NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] to witness this, and so I don't know, they were gonna do this big sweep or something of his regarding the Americans landing on the moon. Now the fact is, is by us making prints, the more images he would turn out, the more money they would make. So, it was one of those things, we would go in there, work started at eight o'clock, you got off for lunch at ten, and about four o'clock in the afternoon the boss would come by and say, "What do you guys want for dinner?" That means you're gonna be there to do some overtime. Okay about eight o'clock he'd come by and ask you how you like your bacon and eggs. (Laughter) You know you're gonna be there to sunrise. And then you get up, "Now you guys go home, be back in about three hours or four hours and come back to work." And that went on for about a couple of--two or three weeks. But, from this, the advantage of working there, all the work that we worked on we would get one of the printer's proofs, and a lot of people are, like I saw a lot of guys are still living off--some of those prints are worth thousands and thousands of dollars. But, when I moved to New Mexico I sold most of mine; I wish I hadn't. And you know I mean everything from Andy Warhol to just, I mean all of these big names. And you know I had all that stuff under my bed, you know, because we would get one of everything. And they treated us, I mean if you had a hurt hand or something, they would send you to the top doctors in Beverly Hills [California]. And then when they, they actually--one of the highlights, they decided that they were gonna have it showed, the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And they said, "What we're gonna do is fly the whole shop there, the janitors and all. The only thing we request is you guys have a good time." So that was one of those experiences where, I mean I got an opportunity to meet all kind of movie stars, celebrities, and everything. And working in there, I mean there were all these people like coming in there, and one of the guys used to hang out with us, name was Michael Crichton. He was a big star. He wrote 'The Andromeda Strain.' He has done--he's a young guy and he's very wealthy. He's about 6'8" and I heard about a year or two he died, and he wasn't that old a guy either. And he was one of these guys, when he was twenty-one years old he was a doctor and all that. But, he's already from family with money. Anyway, they flew the whole shop there and the only thing they want for you to do is just have a good time and that was about it and they was gonna pay, flew the whole shop there with pay, paid you for a week, you know.$Now, you were there [Hand Graphics LLC, Santa Fe, New Mexico] for seventeen years.$$Um-hm.$$I know there's gotta be some stories about some of the artists that you worked with or--$$Um-hm, oh yeah.$$--or some of the pieces that you know are worth a lot of money or something. Tell me what, tell me, give me a story.$$Well, I think one to me it was--I felt very good about the fact that Charles White [Charles Wilbert White] had sought me out to do a print for him during the bicentennial of the U.S., and it's, it's a matter of he and his dealer, Ben Horowitz [Benjamin Horowitz], flew out to Los- to Santa Fe [New Mexico] for me to do this particular print with Charles White, because he was going to be in a nationally traveling show and he was the only--it was an Afro American show, he was the only living artist to be in there. So, he says, "Well, if it's an all Afro American show I will get it--." And Los Angeles County Museum [Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California] wanted to do a print to help pay for this, so he decided if it's gonna be an all Afro American show, I'm gonna get an Afro American printer to print it. Okay, well he flew out to New Mexico and for some reason--Bob Blackburn [Robert Blackburn] is much more well known than I am. But, why he came there rather than New York [New York] I don't know. Bob Blackburn didn't have the set up that I had because Bob Blackburn's studio [Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop] was for, more or less it's a learning place and that sort of thing and mine was set up on much more professional level than--so they flew out there and, in order for Charlie to do the print with me. And the fact is the first time I had ever won any competition, Charles White happened to be the judge out of the first competition I ever won a piece in, and I had known him in Los Angeles [California] before he had came to New Mexico. So, he and his dealer, Ben Horowitz, flew out there and by Santa Fe being seven thousand feet, and Charles White only had one lung, it is very difficult for him to breathe there. So, we had to postpone that, but I always had wanted to work with Charlie. And so about a year or two later, I decided I would do something with him and, but he could not come to Santa Fe. So, what I decided to do was one of those big litho stones--you see where that television is sitting there, that's, on that flat stone that's a big stone, about the size of that table. I took and drove the stone out to his house from New Mexico to Los Angeles, Pasadena [California], where he was living and set it up in his studio. And then I left my truck there and flew back to New Mexico, and a couple of months later he called me to tell me he had completed the drawing on the stone, then I drove back to California, and another friend of mine was working for an artist that I also had worked with, Sam Francis, a pretty well know artist. He had a printmaking studio out in Santa Monica [The Litho Shop, Inc., Santa Monica, California]. So, I proofed the print up just to see what it looks like in front of Charlie, hey here's what we got, here's the corrections or whatever you have to make, so we can discuss it while he was there--visually. So, he approved it and then I drove the stone all the way back to New Mexico and that's where we printed the edition of that particular stone. And then he and I continued to work together, and he had gotten ill at that particular time, so I was taking him some little etching, some plates and he says to me, "Ron [HistoryMaker Ron Adams], look if you can't--," because it's my own business, he said, "well, if you can't afford to publish these you don't have to, you know." I said, "No, hell no, as long as you feel like drawing, hey I'm, I'm your man, you know you do all you want." So, those were, he was, he did four of these little plates and he called me, because I was sending them back and forth through the mail these small etching plates, and he says he made the corrections and he called me and told me, "Ron, I'm sending these plates back next week." I said, "Okay," and I waited two or three weeks, and I didn't receive them and his wife [Frances Barrett White] called me and said, "Charlie passed this week." So, I never saw, took about a year to hand those up, you know before I got the prints and printed those. Those were his last etchings and engravings, you know.$$Do you know the, remember the name of the piece, the first piece that you did? Was there a name for the, the, the print?$$Charles White?$$Yes.$$Oh, 'Sounds of Silence' [sic. 'Sound of Silence']. It was a lithograph. It's on that, over there, the cover is on that book over there if you wanna see that, 'Sounds of Silence.'