Derrick Adams. Social art – How to address a racial issue in a different way

Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary artist from Baltimore. He is involved in painting, sculpture, collage, sound installations, video, performance and fashion. He wants to see the issues of race and oppression in a different way. So he addresses racial issues without preaching, but at the same time he makes feel guilty the white viewer who sees his art work.
When he was at school, he came across a book on Jacob Lawrence ( and although he knew nothing about art history, this discovery had a deep effect on him. The book said that Lawrence had taught at Pratt ( So he decided that he had to go to this school.


© Image: New York Times

At Pratt, he studied art. His best friend at Pratt was Mickalene Thomas (, whom he still keeps in touch. He never felt that art should be his main source of income but it will be.
In 1996, he went from Pratt to Rush Arts Gallery ( , the non-profit Chelsea art space started by his cousin Danny and his two brothers, where for the next four years he worked as the manager and showed Ed Clark (, Frank Bowling (, Howardena Pindell (, and Senga Nengudi ( as well as other then-unknown artists and introduced newcomers such as Wangechi Mutu (, Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley (
Feeling the need to focus on his own art work, he joined the graduate visual-arts program at Columbia, where he was the only black student. So he began to think about white students should be more aware of the accomplishments of black people if they learn about all those oppressive structures that have been imposed upon them. They also have to know that during these times, black people were getting Ph.D.s and attending college.
He began teaching in elementary schools, and he has been teaching ever since. Now he is on a tenure track at Brooklyn College.
Floater paintings depict black people lying on swimming-pool inflatables. More than 100 works of black people relaxing on inflatable swans, unicorns and other fantasy animals.

Floater 93, 2020 © Image:

Floater 94, 2020 © Image :

The eight-bedroom retreats are creative persons’ retreat where the only duty would be to appreciate leisure.
Sanctuary is a series of exhibitions located and inspired by the cities covered in the guide The Green book which is a guide made by a postal worker Victor Hugo Green in 1936 to help black travellers find safe amenities. He wanted to show the accomplishment of the book but not the racism that made it a useful guide.



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In 2014 he gained widespread acclaim with “Live and in Color” shown at New York’s Tilton Gallery. It is show images from early sitcoms, game shows and dramas in collages that were placed in what looked like a vintage television.


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Licencia Creative Commons@Yolanda Muriel Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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