Spotlight: Artist Adam Handler Taps Into Teenage Nostalgia and the Japanese ‘Culture of Cute’ in His New York Exhibition

“Hanami Party" marks the artist's debut solo exhibition at New York's Helwaser Gallery.

Adam Handler, But I Love you Pajama Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery
Adam Handler, But I Love you Pajama Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

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About the Artist: New York artist Adam Handler’s paintings are an insouciant mix of styles—a touch of De Kooning’s expressive brushwork here, a dash of inspiration from self-taught artists like Bill Traylor and Grandma Moses there. His most recent works are on view in “Hanami Party” at Helwaser Gallery in New York, the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. These paintings show various characters ostensibly engaging in Hanami, the Japanese art of observing flowers, usually cherry blossoms, and are heavily influenced by kawaii, the Japanese culture of cuteness.

Inside Adam Handler's studio. Courtesy of the artist and Helwaser.

Inside Adam Handler’s studio. Courtesy of the artist and Helwaser Gallery.

Why We Like It: Handler’s style is enigmatic and yet charming. His newest paintings present a cartoon-like world of friendly ghosts, wide-eyed protagonists, and fantastical flowers. Sweet and exuberant at once, the images are nostalgic for childhood innocence and adolescent hope. Much like hanami parties, Handler’s paintings are a celebration of fleeting beauty. 

According to the Gallery:Handler’s paintings are ultimately maximalist odes to the imagination, populated with psychedelic gardens and surreal spirits. Paintings like Pajama Girl with alien tulips at midnight (2022) and Blooming Girl (2022) capture Handler’s range of depicting his idiosyncratic characters’ emotional states. As in Pajama Girl with alien tulips at midnight, a charming girl, at ease and calm, floats in a realm of sci-fi flowers and twinkling stars. Handler’s Pajama Girl is at ease with the joyous world, wearing a mosaic of polka-dot pajamas, oozing charm. Works like Blooming Girl present the opposite: agitated and energetic, she’s in a state of anxious action, activated with colorful scribbles, as if Basquiat met manga.”

Browse works by the artist below.

Moody Lake Girl (2022)
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Adam Handler, Moody Lake Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Adam Handler, Moody Lake Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Pajama Girl with ghost with tulips at midnight (2022)
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Adam Handler, Pajama Girl with ghost with tulips at midnight (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Adam Handler, Pajama Girl with ghost with tulips at midnight (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Blooming Girl (2022)
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Adam Handler, Blooming Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Adam Handler, Blooming Girl (2022). Courtesy of Helwaser Gallery.

Adam Handler: Hanami Party” is on view at Helwaser Gallery through July 9, 2022. 


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