Adams studied art at the University of California at Los Angeles (B.Ed, 1940; MA, 1942). After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, he returned to teach at UCLA and began to study lithography. Adams met June Wayne, the founding director of Tamarind, when they were both making lithographs at Lynton Kistler’s print studio in Los Angeles. During the 1950s, Adams left Los Angeles to chair the art departments of the University of Kentucky at Lexington and the University of Florida at Gainesville.
Adams returned to Los Angeles to serve as Associate Director of Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Inc. when it was founded in 1960. In 1961, Adams became Dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico. When Tamarind moved to the University of New Mexico in 1970, Adams served as its director until his retirement in 1985. He was actively involved in the University as a professor and administrator while he continued to pursue his research interests in early American lithography. He authored a number of books on the subject, and coauthored, with Garo Antreasian, The Tamarind Book of Lithography: Art and Techniques (Harry N. Abrams, 1971), which was, for many years, considered the authoritative text on the subject.
As a painter and printmaker, Clinton Adams produced a mix of traditional representation and Modernist abstraction. He had more than 30 solo exhibitions, and his work is included in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, among others.
Printmaker Emeritus Award, the Southern Graphics Council
Academician, National Academy of Design
Governor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts of New Mexico
Art Administrator of the Year, National Council of Art Administrators
Selected Public Collections
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, San Francisco
Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
Australian National Gallery, Canberra
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Florida State University, Tallahassee
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles