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Derrick Adams (b. 1970)
Derrick Adams (b. 1970)
Derrick Adams (b. 1970)
Derrick Adams (b. 1970)
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Derrick Adams (b. 1970)

Figure in the Urban Landscape 31

Details
Derrick Adams (b. 1970)
Figure in the Urban Landscape 31
signed and dated 'Derrick Adams 2019' (on the reverse)
acrylic, graphite, ink, fabric on paper, grip tape and model cars on wood panel
60 x 60 in. (152.4 x 152.4 cm.)
Executed in 2019.
Provenance
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
Chicago, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, The Ins and Outs: Figures in the Urban Landscape, May-July 2019.

Brought to you by

Isabella Lauria
Isabella Lauria Associate Vice President, Specialist

Lot Essay

In Figure in the Urban Landscape 31, Brooklyn-based Derrick Adams employs the tradition of portraiture to navigate and reimagine life in an urban society, creating a truly modern family picture of father and daughter. A black and white city grid, evocative of movement and progress, perfectly frames the posing subjects. As matte and painterly passages of pastel teal, lime, emerald and olive greens surround the figures, three miniature model cars traverse the open, perpendicular blacktop roads that cut across the composition. While one could consider the subjects as contained within this industrial grid, Adams asserts that their presence is strong enough to inform the space and mandate the latitudes and longitudes marked on the canvas. At first glance, Figure in the Urban Landscape 31, expresses leisure and comfort within an African-American family, but Adams upends traditional perspective by providing two various viewpoints – one, with vertiginous, zoomed out highways intersecting through the composition, and the other, a photogenic father and daughter posing at center.

Inspired by artists such as David Hammons, Mickalene Thomas, Ed Clark and Adrian Piper, Adams also draws inspiration from pop culture, personal memory and neighbors, admitting, “I pay attention to everything, from store windows, to people in cafes talking, to people on the corner communicating. I like to think about surroundings as source materials” (D. Adams, quoted in C. Moore, “Star Artist Derrick Adams Explains the Radical Power of Making Work About Black People “Just Being, Living,” Artnet News, 5 February 2020). The floral, plaid and seersucker fabric collage pasted within each figure’s garments not only lends a phenomenal and tactile surface quality to the picture, but also reveals Cubism’s influence on the artist. Rendered with blocks of warm shades of coffee, caramel and chocolate juxtaposed with patches of brilliant camel and honey, each tender face recalls traditional African sculpture.

A continuation of his Deconstruction Worker series that he began over a decade ago, Adams’ Urban Landscapes from 2019 include various empowering, fulfilling and dignifying portraits of Black men, women and children, exemplifying the artist’s pursuit in creating spaces that imagine alternative narratives. The artist classifies his critical and philosophical analysis through cultural examination as “a testament of perseverance”. He continues, “We have to represent a certain sense of normalcy in order to stabilize the culture so that young people who are coming after us can look at themselves as fully dimensional humans—not always pushing against something, but basically just existing in a way that’s unapologetic and natural” (D. Adams, quoted in C. Moore, “Star Artist Derrick Adams Explains the Radical Power of Making Work About Black People “Just Being, Living,” Artnet News, 5 February 2020). By setting the figures against a lush, green landscape, Adams conjures up an idyllic image of a Sunday afternoon in the park. The paternal embrace of a present and loving father thus shifts perceptions of a modern black family: a rebellion against stereotypical representations. The identities of the sitters are perhaps purposefully ambiguous, allowing their anonymity to become a catalyst for latent imagination.

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