Star Artist Derrick Adams Explains the Radical Power of Making Work About Black People ‘Just Being,

Derrick Adams in his studio,. Photo by Charles Moore.

Derrick Adams in his studio,. Photo by Charles Moore.

This past November, I had the pleasure of meeting Derrick Adams at his Brooklyn studio. The critically acclaimed, multidisciplinary artist is known for his inventive portraits of black subjects. I’ve been a fan for some time now, and I’m not the only one.

Over the next few months, Adams’s work will be featured in “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle” at the Peabody Essex Museum, as well as in two separate solo shows: “Derrick Adams: Transformers” is set to open at Luxembourg & Dayan in London on February 10, and “Derrick Adams: Buoyant” comes to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers on March 7.

Salon 94 is also planning a booth organized around the artist’s work for next week’s Frieze Los Angeles. That’s a lot to talk about.

Our conversation ranged from Adams’s creative vision to his advocacy for other artists, his ambitions to open an art residency in his hometown of Baltimore, and his love for What’s Happening!

I see you’ve been revisiting Baltimore often, particularly recently.

I’m from Baltimore, and recently I just became more interested in the creative culture of Baltimore. It’s been prospering for younger artists—primarily artists of African descent.

Because these young artists are not in New York, they are away from the so-called market and able to develop in a way that they might not have been able to do here [in New York]. But they are still very close to New York, so they’re still on the radar.

I grew up in Baltimore and that was not an option when I was in my early twenties. It’s really interesting to see that change.

So I became interested in that growth, and I just started to go into Baltimore more often, just to be a part of it and to find out if I could help to push it along, through my connections or my experience here in New York. Also [I wanted to] redirect some of the people who are interested in what’s happening here [in New York] towards looking at what’s happening in Baltimore, since it’s so close.




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