Derrick Adams is a Baltimore-born artist whose critically admired work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice explores the ways in which individuals’ ideals, aspirations, and personae become attached to specific objects, colors, textures, symbols, and ideologies. His work probes the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image, and the relationship between man and monument as they coexist and embody one another. Adams is also deeply immersed in questions of how African American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. Most notably in his Floater series, he portrays Black Americans at leisure, positing that respite itself is a political act when embraced by black communities. The radicality of this position has materialized in Adams’ work across his Deconstruction Worker, Figure in the Urban Landscape, and Beauty World series.
In formal terms, Adams’ practice is rooted in Deconstructivist philosophies related to the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface, and the marriage of complex and improbable forms. His tendency to layer, hybridize, and collage not only images and materials, but also different types of sensory experiences, link the artist to an estimable lineage of pioneers ranging from Hannah Höch and Henri Matisse to William H. Johnson and Romare Bearden. In Adams’ art, the process can also be understood as an analog, as he once remarked: “Everything that we are is based on a specific construction.”
Adams received his M.F.A. from Columbia University and B.F.A. from Pratt Institute. He is an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation’s Studio Program.
Adams is a recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency (2019), a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), a Studio Museum Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize (2016), and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2009). He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including Where I’m From — Derrick Adams (2019) at The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall; Derrick Adams: Sanctuary (2018) at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and Derrick Adams: Transmission (2018) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. Adams’ work has been presented in numerous important public exhibitions, including Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth. (2019) at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati; PERFORMA (2015, 2013, and 2005); The Shadows Took Shape (2014)and Radical Presence (2013–14) at The Studio Museum in Harlem; The Channel (2012) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Greater New York (2005) at MoMA PS1; and Open House: Working In Brooklyn (2004) at the Brooklyn Museum. His work resides in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Birmingham Museum of Art.