Derrick Adams (American, born 1970) delves deeply and fearlessly into the nooks and crannies of Black life and culture, unveiling a nuanced wholeness of humanity. The artist depicts a world where joy, love, leisure, and even prosaic normalcy play central roles, methodically filling the many voids and omissions in popular visual culture. Buoyant will be the first museum exhibition of Adams’ Floaters series and will debut We Came to Party and Plan, new related works the artist created during his summer 2019 Rauschenberg Residency.
Executed between 2016 and 2019, the Floaters series is a collection of vividly painted portraits depicting Black people in various states of rest and play, buoyantly floating on calm waters. Relaxed bodies, some with a gentle grin, others holding a summertime beverage, melt into rainbow-colored unicorns or candy shaped plastic floaties. This classically American iconography signifies the carefree pleasures of success: the American Dream in physical form. Through Adams’ hand, and his vantage point, these archetypal images feel simultaneously familiar yet unexpected.
Much like water, the exhibition will flow to unexpected spaces. In addition to works from the Floaters series, Buoyant will feature an immersive, large-scale installation entitled We Came to Party and Plan, a newly created body of work that invites the viewer into a party atmosphere full of complexity, as well as Tables Turned, an earlier series also related to celebration. In other areas of the Museum, the artist will curate a selection of works from the Hudson River Museum’s collection, casting a fresh perspective on historical and twentieth-century works related to the subjects of water and leisure. In the HRM’s historic home Glenview, visitors will discover artistic interruptions on bookshelves, mantles, and subtle spaces within the Gilded Age period rooms.
Derrick Adams: Buoyant is organized by the Hudson River Museum, and co-curated by James E. Bartlett, founder of OpenArt, and Laura Vookles, Chair of the HRM’s Curatorial Department. The Museum’s unique perch along the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers provides a particularly compelling setting to consider these images and themes. The fully illustrated catalog will feature essays by Bartlett and art critic and writer Antwaun Sargent, an interview between Adams and artist Mickalene Thomas, and a section dedicated to Adams’ curation of the Museum’s collections. A rich array of interdisciplinary programs, including artist and author tours, public discussions, music, spoken word performances, film, and studio workshops will accompany the exhibition.