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Derrick Adams

Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams is recognized for his portraits of scenes from everyday life celebrating Black culture and self-determination. I discuss with Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, founder of Salon 94, about his art market. Her New York City-based art gallery has represented Adams since September 2019. 

Was there a specific artwork that saw Derrick Adams make his initial breakthrough?

Derrick has developed many bodies of work over the course of his practice: Patrick Kelly: The Journey, Figures in the Urban Landscape, Floaters, We Came to Party and Plan, and Style Variations are among the series that have become well known, and sought by collectors and curators. 

What in particular stands out about his works, approach, process and technique?

Derrick’s practice connects with a wide audience, who understands his unique visual language as conveying Black normalcy – portraying Black people as fully dimensional. Working across mediums, he retains a distinctive style so that his art is both graphically consistent yet filled with great variety and nuance, familiar and surprising. Derrick is a master of materials and techniques, from painting and sculpture to performance, collage and drawing. He deploys these to create vivid and multifaceted depictions of Black life at a time when it would be too easy, not to mention dangerous, to reduce the Black American experience to one of only pain or trauma. His work is joyous, but deeply radical. 

Which have been his most important gallery and museum exhibitions throughout his career?

Derrick’s breakout show at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York City in the spring of 2019, organized by Amalia Dayan! That exhibition brought international visibility to Derrick. Right before the pandemic, he opened a critically admired exhibition at the Hudson River Museum dedicated to his Floaters and We Came to Party and Plan series. He also had a very personal show in his hometown at the Baltimore City Hall. A group of collage works based on The Negro Motorist Green Book are currently on view in Derrick Adams: Sanctuary at The Momentary, which is a satellite space of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. Building on the momentum of those important shows, Derrick has exhibitions on the schedule for the coming fall at the Cleveland Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and the Longlati Foundation in Shanghai. His museum shows often travel or take on different forms in subsequent exhibition spaces, as there is continual interest by curators to explore past bodies of work and emphasize how crucial these pieces are to his current practice. 

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