Derrick Adams

“Most of my work is about how popular culture’s social and political agendas are wrapped into entertainment, and how entertainment is used as a way of enlightening people without them knowing they’re being enlightened.”

Baltimore-born Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work largely focuses on the influence pop culture has on what he calls the “formation of self-image” and Black identity. 

Adams’ work extensively explores the Black experience and its intersection with art history, iconography, and consumerism. 

Media representation continues to be a strong subject in Adams’ work, exemplified in his 2014 collection “LIVE and IN COLOR.” Adams carefully selects and blends mediums, representing a variety of experiences and identities.

Solo Shows
Studio Museum in Harlem; MCA Denver
Group Shows
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, MoMA PS1, Brooklyn Academy of Music + more
Reviewed In
Art in America, Artforum, frieze
Permanent Collections
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art + more

Baltimore-born Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary artist whose work largely focuses on the influence pop culture has on what he calls the “formation of self-image” and the expression of Black identity. Adams is a master of mediums, regularly utilizing and combining painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, and sound installation. He is heavily influenced by Deconstructivism, a postmodern movement in which artists embrace unpredictability and chaos. To Adams, everything that exists is based on a specific construction; he looks to dismantle that construction through his collages and hybridization of ideas, material, medium, and sensory experiences. 


Adams has also extensively explored the Black experience and its intersection with art history, iconography, and consumerism. He closely examines the people surrounding him, looking at their style choices as manifestations of cultural production and source material for his work. His recent “Buoyant” series looks at a new method of Black portraiture, while also commenting on the dark history of racist public pool policies. 


Media representation is a constant subject in Adams’ work, clearly exemplified in his 2014 collection “Live and in Color.” In the series, Adams thoughtfully selects and blends mediums to represent a variety of experiences and identities. “I think of art in terms of asking what’s the best form of execution for the conversation you want to have,” he told Artnet. As a result, form becomes an important carrier of his messages, from his vibrant large scale paintings of African American women examining black femininity to Afrofuturist TV sets. Adams’ cultural impact is deep and rapidly expanding, with his work making key appearances on the TV shows “Empire” and “Insecure.” Adams has received multiple notorious awards for his work, including the Studio Museum Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize in 2016.

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