Kim Adams, "Dual Curbing Machine" 1993, mixed media. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of Barbara Fischer.

About the Artwork

Art appraiser Jeanne Parkin says, “Kim Adams is one of Canada’s most original makers of sculpture. Using readymade industrial components right off the shelf or floor of the hardware store, he constructs eccentric machines that, in a very amusing and inventive way, are presented, not simply as whimsical inventions, but as metaphors for the perpetual dilemma of everyday life.” (Parkin, 1999) 

Kim Adams has an affinity for Canadian Tire and while shopping there he collects ideas and parts for his works.  Dual Curbing Machine is a symmetrical, kinetic  sculpture  made of industrial materials and looks like it could have come off of an industrial assembly line.  Constructed on a metal trailer/wagon, the sculpture has large satellite dishes connected to motors on either end of it, and displays two pylons on either side of the three steps used to access the platform.  Here a viewer can observe the spinning dishes when they are plugged into a power source.  It is painted in bright and child-pleasing colors and brings to mind ideas of play and pleasurable experiences related to carnivals and fairs. 

Dual Curbing Machine is a smaller replica of Curbing Machine, a 1986 sculpture Adams displayed on the busy streets of downtown Toronto.  Six hours each day for a month he shared his machine/sculpture with the public – free of charge.  He encouraged his audience to interact with the sculpture, observing their reactions to the spectacle he created.  Each person reacted in their own unique way. Andy Patton describes Adams’ works this way: “abandoned they are sculpture; tended they are rides, amusements, vendor’s vehicles.” (Patton, 1991) By placing his non-commercial sculpture in the street among the street vendors, Adams brings to mind ideas related to commodity consumption and at the same time he is encouraging leisure activities in busy urban centres. 

From his experiences with street culture and urban life, Adams also creates objects that reference the automobile and ideas of home.  Since for many people, their vehicle is like a second home, today’s cars are equipped for comfort and entertainment, complete with television screens and stereo systems.  On the other side of this equation is the growing number of homeless and nomadic people who will never own a vehicle or property.   Curator Andy Patton notes, “These two modes – mobile and the immobile, the vehicle and the home – correspond to the two fundamentals of contemporary urban life: the car and the house.  But though most of his works “begin” in one or another of these modes, almost all of his works consist in the condensing of these two into one object: the transformation of vehicles into homes and homes into vehicles.” (Patton, 1991) 

Artistic influences upon Adam’s work could include the work of Duchamp and the Dadaist movement of the 1920‘s.  Like Adams, artists from that time experimented with motion, machines, and industrialization.   

About the Artist

Kim Adams was born in Edmonton, Alberta, but during his childhood his family moved often.  Writer Sarah Milroy says, “Adams spent his childhood as a rambler, ricocheting with his family from Edmonton to Melbourne and back again, finally settling in Victoria.  He attended 12 schools in 12 years, as his father followed work opportunities.” (Milroy, 2001) With a school record like Adams’, it’s no wonder he was tempted to skip classes and became interested in street life and street culture.  At an early age he began cutting things up and reinventing objects, and sometimes these objects became architectural structures or ‘vehicles’ in which the artist could actually live. 

Adams’ early experiences in Australia had a significant impact on his life, helping him to realize early on that the world is a big place with lots of opportunities.  When his family initially moved to Australia, they lived in a tin shack before building a better house, and ideas of home and metal construction figure prominently in Adams’ work today.  As a young child he was given model kits which he assembled himself; this freedom to put parts together using his own creativity has been important to his artistic process.  Nearly everything he creates has wheels and looks like it could possibly be a model kit gone awry.  Another Australian influence for Adams was the two-headed lizard found in that climate.  The two-headed theme, or going off in two directions at once, is a device he often uses, and is apparent in the Dual Curbing Machine where the two ends of the structure are similar, with a body in between. 

Adams studied with Mowry Baden at the University of Victoria and in 1979 received a Bachelor of Fine Arts.  He has exhibited extensively and received international recognition for his whimsical machines and his miniature industrial sculptural landscapes.  In these works, Adams explores issues related to consumerism and society, travel and leisure, home and architecture, usefulness and uselessness, industrialization and technology, mobility and escapism, and art and function.

“The rampant cornucopia of consumer culture is his muse,” Milroy says, “Canadian Tire is his Arcadia, and out of it all he has produced a  body of work  that has made him, indisputably, one of Canada’s most significant sculptors.” (Milroy, 2001)

Things to Think About

  • At some point in his career, Adams was told his work was not art. Why do you think a viewer would come to that conclusion? 
  • Writer Jack Anderson notes, “For over a decade now, Adams has been making these kinds of impossible, unworkable inverted vehicles that reference the American car culture. Clearly they represent industrialism gone awry.” (Anderson, 2002) How do you think Adams gets this point across? 

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundaysyqr!

Studio Activity


Design an impossible object where the objects have two fronts, or two backs put together into one form. Some examples from Kim Adams’ work would be the front halves of two bicycles joined together at the middle, or the back ends of two vans joined together. 

What you Need:

Pencils, paper, found objects to create your machine, white or hot glue 

What you Do:


  • Make a series of sketches for your sculptural machine by first drawing a number of different machines.
  • Fold each machine in half and realign two different halves together creating a hybrid machine. 
  • Try placing different combinations together until you find a hybrid machine you like. 
  • Cut and join the two halves together or redraw the two halves on one sheet. 
  • A fun option is to join together front and backs from different things to create imaginative objects or animals. 


  • Recreate your hybrid machine as a 3D model 
  • This is where you need to be creative since we are limited by the materials we have around us.  
  • Instead of buying wheels think about how you can make them. For example, wheels can be made out of yogurt lids, rolled up paper, frizbees or anything round your family agrees to use. 
  • For the body you could use wood, cardboard, a cereal box… 
  • There is no right or wrongDon’t worry if your 3D model doesn’t look like the drawing. Artists sometimes face the same challenge. It helps to understand this can be part of the process of creating and enjoy results. There are no rules, as the artist you can continue to alter your work. 
  • To explore how to build larger machines visit: