Derrick Adams: In conversation at the FLAG Art Foundation

08 Mar 2023 Derrick Adams: In conversation at the FLAG Art Foundation

The paintings Derrick Adams makes are uncompromisingly black and consistently avoid negativity. During our February visit to the FLAG art foundation, where Adams and FLAG founder Glenn Furnham conversed and took our questions, the artist explained how his studio operates like a sanctuary where he only creates what he "wants to experience every day."

I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You, closed on 11 March, was one of the winter's premier shows from one of the world's premier contemporary painters, requiring us to plan an event for the show. In addition to a private, after-hours viewing, we were lucky to have the artist in attendance and learn more about his work and practice.

The exhibition features a new series of his work titled Motion Picture Paintings. Adams considers black life to be like a movie, so while much of the art is based on films, one of the show's larger works features a couple lounging in a hammock, a scene he witnessed in real life that he believes had cinematic qualities to it.

Adams was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where his youthful experiences with art spaces differed greatly from those in New York City, where he is now based. Adams grew up going to galleries around the neighbourhood that typically acted as community gathering spaces, run by locals with a primary goal of accessibility. Because of this, Adams appreciates intimate showing spaces like FLAG compared to museums where artists may be unable to touch their own work.

While producing his work, Adams influences and is influenced by some of his studio assistants who have a bit of inspiration on his music choice, meaning the City Girls may get as much play as Marvin Gaye in the later stages of the day.

A security guard at the exhibition, who Adams took the time to become familiar with, expressed his admiration for the work on view, especially Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't, which juxtaposes the varied reactions experienced on social media. His feedback directly reflected the purposefulness of everyday black life and joy in popular exhibition spaces.

Artist-centred encounters are planned each month for our Club-level members. Find more information about our membership offerings here.