Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BFA from Pratt University, New York, in 1996 and graduated with an MFA from Columbia University, New York, in 2003. Adams has held numerous teaching positions and is currently a tenured assistant professor in the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts at CUNY Brooklyn College. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Maryland Institute College of Art.
Adams celebrates and expands the dialogue around contemporary Black life and culture through scenes of normalcy and perseverance. He has developed an iconography of joy, leisure, and the pursuit of happiness within a practice that encompasses paintings, sculptures, collages, performances, videos, and public projects. Adams synthesizes representational imagery with planar Cubist geometry to produce multifaceted figures and faces that address the richness of the Black experience.
In 2022, Adams established Charm City Cultural Cultivation, an organization to support and encourage underserved communities in the city of Baltimore through events conducted by three entities: The Last Resort Artist Retreat, a residency program that subscribes to the concept of leisure as therapy for the Black creative; The Black Baltimore Digital Database, a collaborative counter-institutional space for collecting, storing, and safekeeping the data of local archival initiatives; and Zora’s Den, an online community of Black women writers started in January 2017, which has since expanded into in-person writing workshops, a writers’ circle, and a monthly reading series that strive to promote instruction, support, and social engagement.
Adams has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions such as The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland (2022); The Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2021); Hudson River Museum, Yonkers (2020); and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2018). The artist has mounted public installations commissioned through Art at Amtrak at NYC Penn Station, New York (2023); MTA Arts & Design at the Nostrand Avenue LIRR Station, Brooklyn (2020–ongoing); and RxART at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem (2019–ongoing). His work has been featured in notable group exhibitions including The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (2023); Packaged Black: Derrick Adams & Barbara Earl Thomas, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2022); Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair, Kent State University Museum (2021–2022); and Performa, New York (2015, 2013, 2005). His art resides in the collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and the Birmingham Museum of Art, among many others.