New York City, NY
Derrick Adams is a New York–based, multidisciplinary artist working in performance, video, sound, textile- and paper-based collage, and multimedia sculpture. His practice is rooted in deconstructivist philosophies such as the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface, and the marriage of complex and improbable forms. Through these techniques, Adams examines the force of popular culture and the media on the perception and construction of self-image.
Derrick Adams: Sanctuary is an exhibition of large-scale sculpture, and mixed-media collage and assemblage on wood panels that reimagine safe destinations for the black American traveler during the mid-twentieth century. The body of work was inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black American road-trippers published by New York mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the Jim Crow era in America.
Referred to simply as The Green Book in its day, the publication served as a guide to finding businesses that were welcoming to black Americans, including hotels and restaurants, during an era when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against nonwhites was widespread. These designated safe spaces were places of refuge and leisure, where one could spend quality time with friends and family. The depiction of black America at leisure is a theme of continued interest to Adams, who explores how engaging in leisure as a form of relaxation and reflection can be a political act when embraced by members of black or working-class communities.
Derrick Adams: Sanctuary reflects on the plight of working-class black people before and during the Civil Rights Movement, and their determination to pursue the same American Dream afforded to others. Today, The Green Book serves as a poignant artifact and reminder of the importance of equality during a time in which uneven law enforcement continues to negatively shape the lives and experiences of many black Americans.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.