Derrick Adams’, I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell You exhibition at the Flag Art Foundation in New York City is a collection of 16 paintings from his new series Motion Picture Paintings. This collection from Adams comprises freeze-framed moments from movies, his personal life, and even his imagination. The collection Motion Picture Paintings was initially inspired by black life, Adams says. His work started from ideas about movies while considering the thought of family and friendship portrayed in cinema. “Black life is a movie,” said Adams via the Flag Art Foundation, “a psychological thriller, situational comedy, romance, adventure drama, suspense, and horror all rolled into one.” Adams used various colors in his paintings in this collection to express the mood and to push some ideas regarding the language of film. He also stated that he wanted the viewer to experience some sense of emotional responses that he had while creating these pieces, and the abundance of color in each piece allows the viewer to do so.
The “Just” is a painting of a black couple sitting in a hammock in a park with just one of their legs hanging out with the words “Happily Ever After” painted over the hammock. Adams said he was sitting in a park when he saw a young black couple struggling to set up their hammock together, and later described this event as him watching a short movie because of the cinematic quality it had to it. Even though an actual film didn’t inspire this painting, Adams turned this idea into a painting that felt like it was from a film. The perfectly set up hammock with the words “Happily Ever After” in a vibrant, colorful, natural setting makes it feel like this image belongs at the end of a film. The bright colors in this painting exude a joyful, hopeful, calming, and light emotion from the viewer, similar to what Adams felt while watching it happen and while making this piece. It is difficult not to get lost in this painting because it is thought-provoking. This painting may make you dream about yourself sitting in that hammock with your significant other or one of your friends, thinking about the warm air touching your skin and the lovely conversations shared at that moment.
The scene in “Onward and Upward” resembles the passing shot in a movie. Featured are several people walking along a sidewalk past a large poster on a wall. This large poster has two enormous heads of male and female pilots looking at each other, with the words “Soul Plane” between them (Soul Plane is a 2004 comedy movie about a black-owned airline). Adams was inspired to make this series because of black life and wanted to incorporate a cinematic theme to it, and what better way to do so than by assimilating the movie Soul Plane into one of his pieces? Adams’ ability to make this painting feel like a passing scene out of a movie is unique and fascinating.
Entering this exhibition is like stepping into a compilation of Derrick Adams’ snapshots from his films. Each piece feels like it is out of some sort of media platform. It is unfeasible to contain your joyous smile while walking through or scrolling through these paintings, and you will find yourself lost in a world of imagination and beautiful reenactments of movies. The vibrant colors Adams uses in these paintings evoke a positive emotion from the viewer and leave them delighted once they are finished viewing his exhibition. His ability to shift from an artwork inspired by a movie to a painting inspired by a real-life event he witnessed and to his imagination is extraordinary. This exhibition is meant to be enjoyed because of the fun, relatable, hopeful, and nostalgic feeling highlighted in each painting.
Written by Jaden Zalkind
Copy Edited by Kee’nan Haggen
Photo Edited by Alanna Reid