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Derrick Adams

What the museum says: “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 flows to unexpected spaces. In addition to works from the ‘Floaters’ series, ‘Buoyant’ features 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. The artist [also] curated a selection of works from the Hudson River Museum’s collection, casting a fresh perspective on historical and 20th-century works related to the subjects of water and leisure.” 

Why it’s worth a look: What better way to celebrate this momentous summer than with the jubilant images of Derrick Adams, which radiate happiness in this rainbow-soaked show? Though on the surface, these images seem to be advertisements for the American Dream, Adams challenges viewers to look between the layers of color and ask the question of just what these unguarded images of Black leisure mean—and why such images are so rare. In the installation We Came to Party and Plan, Adams more explicitly addresses the dualism of Black celebration: “when we get together, it isn’t just to have a party,” Adams says of the work. “We might be planning a revolution at the same time.”

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