Derrick AdamsBuoyant

July 11 through October 18, 2020

(Left) Floater 66, 2018, Acrylic paint and collage on paper, Private collection

(Right) Floater 36, 2017, Acrylic paint and collage on paper, Private collection

Derrick Adams (American, b. 1970) examines the power of popular culture on one’s self-image, and mines his personal, as well as broader, African-American histories to celebrate under recognized, often prosaic, aspects of Black life. In Derrick Adams: Buoyant, the Baltimore-born artist depicts black men and women relaxing on calm waters in playful floaties shaped like food, candy, and majestic animals. The exhibition is derived from his Floaters series created between 2016-2019.

Exuding summer fun and nostalgia, the large-scale, vivid paintings show a world where joy, love, and leisure play central roles. With these colorful scenes, Adams also methodically fills the many voids and omissions of Black culture in American mass media. The images also debunk cultural stereotypes of black people’s relationship with swimming, and harkens back to a time when black people in recreational water was not a welcomed sight as America’s pools and beaches were as segregated as schools and restaurants. With this portrait series, Adams reimagines these perceptions and histories to create a more accurate and fuller presentation of Black life and find a connection with the viewer on an emotional level.

Derrick Adams: Buoyant at the MFA will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the Southeast.

Adams received his MFA from Columbia University, BFA from Pratt Institute, and is a Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Marie Walsh Sharpe alumnus. He is also the recipient of the 2018 American Family Fellowship from the Gordon Parks Foundation, a 2009 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, and the 2014 S.J. Weiler Award. His artwork is in the permanent collections of public institutions including the Hudson River Museum, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, FL; Studio Museum, NY; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

Derrick Adams: Buoyant is organized by the Hudson River Museum, and curated by James E. Bartlett and Laura Vookles. A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with contributions by James E. Bartlett, Antwaun Sargent, and Mickalene Thomas.


Made possible by James G. Sweeny with additional support from Ann and William Edwards.