MAGIC EYE, 2018

In order to show his versatility as an artist, Caff Adeus wanted to put the camera down and spend more time constructing, shaping and molding ideas in real time, which is a complete 180 from his previous collections, where he merely directed participants with verbal cues. Surrealism, photo manipulation and misdirection are key elements in his work, and after many long whisky-fueled nights of brainstorming, he committed to the idea of creating something semi-abstract, using various textiles, as well as cheap household and office materials. In this disorienting display of colorful camouflage and over-saturated solids, Caff Adeus treats his viewers to a myriad of scenes and topics, both lighthearted and emotional, along with some completely random objects, and human-like shapes that Adeus refers to as his “ghosts”, hidden within the fabric.

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Adeus chose to give viewers just enough information to evoke the unconscious, but ultimately strip away any distractions that may prevent the imagination from creating it’s own unique narrative. Hiding the gender, ethnicity, age, and/or physical ability, of whom or what he photographed, eliminates biases based on the aforementioned. Albeit some of the shapes viewers see may lead to thoughts of a covered human entity, that may not be the case with this series. As mentioned before, Adeus loves to challenge his viewers, so what you’re seeing could very well be a person or just random materials fashioned to look like a body. Given the abstract nature of the photos, he chose not to title any of the images, allowing viewers to organically find the meaning, instead of being handed the subject matter. Each photo is instead given the number generated upon it’s capture.

"Growing up, my dad would take my brother and I to Atlantic City on his not so very “court designated” weekends. I dreaded going there. Absolutely hated it! My imagination is insane, but as a kid it was even wilder, untamed even. This description may be a little overboard, but I’m going to paint a picture of this place as seen through my kid eyes. For your sake, I hope you’re not currently eating. Imagine sitting on a wobbly stool, at a slot machine plopped down in the middle of an active landfill. Barge horns wail in the distance, trash compactors mash violently, and excavators scooping on Dali-esque elephant legs walk amongst the garbage. Dirty, one-eyed seagulls, circle over your head like vultures, screeching for boardwalk fries. There are others around you. Sickly humanoids, wide-eyed and hypnotized by the action on their machines, in tank tops and translucent visors. A lady beside you smiles creepily. Well at least you think it was a smile. But it was more of a hiss through brown teeth. As a cockroach crawls from under her wig and disappears into her ear, she blows smoke from the hole in her neck. You try to speak, but it’s like one of those dreams where you’re paralyzed. You try to breathe but the smoke around you is so thick and you can’t open your mouth because your teeth are stuck together from all the salt water taffy you ate. The sound of the games around you seem to intensify and begin to sound less like games and more like a thousand car crashes. DING DING DING! CRASH! WHIRL! TICK TICK TICK! PLING PLING PLING! Coins hitting metal. Cards being dealt. Chips being counted. The noise is dizzying. As you pull the lever of your machine it lights up, the inner wheels spin, eventually stopping to reveal three heroin needles. DING DING DING! WINNER! WINNER! WINNER! The machine screams and shakes as if about to explode. But instead of coins, vomit shoots out. That was Atlantic City in the early 90s.

Okay, that was a little hyperbolic, but you get what I’m saying. This place was very traumatizing for me when I was younger. It was on a third world level in the late 80s, early 90s. The houses in the neighborhoods around the casinos resembled a third world country. Buildings boarded up and/or crumbling. Fully deserted. The streets were sprinkled liberally with prostitutes frolicking in the daytime, disfigured homeless people, and drug addicts shooting up in full view of tourists. The ocean water felt toxic, the beach was filthy, and the boardwalk was home to beggars and entertainers doing whatever they could to make money. One beggar in particular that was very frightening for me, was a woman, with no arms or legs, lying on her stomach playing a keyboard with her tongue. I was so distraught by this, but my dad, trying desperately not to raise a little bitch, would force me to go up to her and put money in her cup. To be honest, I came out the womb innately terrified of everything, including my own shadow, but mostly abnormalities and disfigurements. To this day I still can’t look at the Elephant Man or that Cher movie, ‘Mask’, with the disfigured redhead guy. I was well into my twenties before I began to grow out of most of my irrational fears and understand life and the things I saw in AC.

While visiting this sandy gambling dump, we would escape the side shows and summer heat by going into the mall that was built on a pier. There was cool air conditioning, delicious candy shops and a huge arcade in the back. Here I could forget the horrors outside and finally relax. My dad would give me some money and let me run around for an hour or two, while he browsed the shops. I was in heaven. The pier was a real life oasis. I would spend so much time in the arcade that when I finally walked outside again it felt like I was transported to the surface of the sun, before my eyes adjusted to the sunlight.

Another treat inside the mall was a store that sold really cool posters and it seemed to draw a huge crowd every single time I was there. People would go inside and just stare at these framed pictures of nonsensical patterns all over the walls, spaced evenly apart, like an art gallery. At first I didn’t know what the big deal was, but then I stared at one of the posters and my skinny little malnourished life changed. The images morphed and came alive right before my eyes. I was seeing in 3D. They were so futuristic and magical. My eyes saw one thing and then seconds later I saw shapes, animals, objects, and people appear in the colorful madness. I still remember thinking that I had super powers because I could see the images so quickly, while others around me struggled. The store sold Magic Eye posters and at the time I had no idea how they did it, but I never forgot these moments. Eventually a store popped up back in my hometown’s mall. Now I didn’t have to travel so far or go to such a gross place to see the magic, which made me happy.

Those colorful memories are what helped this series to come alive. Creating these photographs was exciting, refreshing, emotional and frustrating all at the same time. After becoming an adult and working a somewhat autonomous life throughout my 20s, in my early 30s I finally evolved into the artist I’ve always wanted to be, so I’m thankful that the kid in me never went away. Those memories and my inner child still fuel my imagination to create things that are fun and free. The amount of time I spent in my studio cutting, glueing and taping fabric together, ripping and balling up packing paper, or making shoes, masks, devil horns and swords with aluminum foil are memories I will cherish forever. Who knows, maybe in another 25 years a memory from this moment in time will help me create something new."

From the Magic Eye photobook, by Caff Adeus, available here