Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) is a Brooklyn, New York-based artist whose critically admired work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installations. His multidisciplinary practice engages 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 Black experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. Most notably in his Floater series, he portrays Black people 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.
Adams received his MFA from Columbia University and BFA from Pratt Institute. He is an alumnus of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation Space Program and was the recipient of Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, a Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award. Adams was commissioned by RxART in 2020 to create the uplifting imagery that was installed throughout the Pediatric Emergency Department Treatment Rooms at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem. Some of his “floaters” imagery also graces the cover and sticker spread of Between the Lines: An RxART Coloring Book by Contemporary Artists – Volume 8.
The artist’s work will be the subject of Derrick Adams: LOOKS at the Cleveland Art Museum (2021-2022) and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions such as The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2021); SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Savannah (2020–2021); Hudson River Museum, Yonkers (2020); Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (2020); The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall (2019); and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2018). The artist has mounted public installations commissioned by the Milwaukee Museum of Art, On Site: Derrick Adams, a multimedia wall mural and sculptural installation (2021-ongoing), and through MTA Arts & Design at the Nostrand Avenue LIRR Station, Brooklyn (2020–ongoing. His work has been featured in notable group exhibitions, including at the Longlati Foundation, Shanghai (2021-2022), Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair, Kent State University Museum (2021–2022); Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem (2020), now at the Seattle Art Museum (2021); Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth., National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati (2019), traveled to Washington State History Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Tacoma (2019–2020); and Performa, New York (2015, 2013, 2005). His art resides in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and the Birmingham Museum of Art, among many others. He has recently established an artist program and residency in his hometown of Baltimore called The Last Resort.