As a baby in Israel during the Gulf War, artist Adam Liam Rose experienced a climate of anxiety with the fear that Saddam Hussein was going to bomb the region. He remembers a box of family photos that included images of his parents wearing government-issued gas masks and his tiny, cherubic self crying inside a crib enclosed with a plastic bubble featuring a glove insert to nurture an infant in the event of a quarantine. They found out later it would probably have done nothing to protect a baby from the disastrous effects of a chemical weapon attack. Instead, these gestures on the part of the Israeli state were likely false reassurance that the public was being considered and protected. Rose can point to numerous examples of Israel’s attempt to surreptitiously manipulate minds and fortify land — including Route 443, an intercity road stretching through the West Bank to connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that is stealthily secured with anti-sniper walls.


The artist moved to the United States just after 9/11 during the Iraq War, coming of age in a time when propaganda promised safety and comfort to those who embraced nationalism in defense of an amorphous “freedom.” It wasn’t until attending college that he gained a sense of lucidity, watching documentaries and propaganda videos on YouTube for research. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then Columbia University, he began making and installing large-scale sculptures often with video components, structures that riffed on the menacing and mothering panopticon and other forms of safety architecture. Then while attending a residency at Triangle Arts Association in 2019, a friend challenged him to draw each day. His answer was an ongoing series of works on paper titled Stages of Fallout, inspired by survival manuals from the 1950s in the U.S., featuring illustrations of architectural plans for nuclear fallout shelters.




“Stages of Fallout” (2022).


“I thought the sun rose in your eyes” (2022).


“The Kiss” (2023).


“Stages of Fallout (vessel)” (2022).




Rose uses graphite pencil on gray paper to form a glimmering static that swells, billows, and ripples within orthographic projections of spare structures — fractal light beams and dust whirlpools housed in concrete. With walls bombed away to reveal minimal industrial spaces, each drawing is a sublime image of suburban warfare, striking a tension between the ornamental and the horrific. This disconnect between the aesthetic marvel of his work and its sociopolitical underpinnings is intentional, much like the fascistic forms of architecture that are supposed to hide, to fool the public, with artifice that veils an insidious purpose.


The bomb shelters in the manuals appear as a civil offering for white-picket-fence families of the 1950s, but in practice, were actually only proposals for safety zones for the few privileged hegemons. The stark, utilitarian qualities of these underground havens reflect the white-walled galleries in which his drawings are often shown — unchallenging, clinical spaces proposing the possibility of both pleasure and dread in the illusionary safety of an intellectual and environmental vacuum. Rose conjures an image of wealth and power in a calamitous moment of atomic disintegration. In his astral projections, catastrophe is like deadly treasure found in partially obliterated caverns — an abstracted metaphor for the phenomenon of life — semi-isolated chaos in full grandeur.


“Stages of Fallout (illuminated)” (2021).


“Stages of Fallout (transcended)” (2021).


“Stages of Fallout (mirror world)” (2022).


Adam Liam Rose photographed at Fort Tilden Beach, Queens, NY. April 2023.



This story is printed in GAYLETTER issue 18.