Friday Five with Derrick Adams

When New York-based Derrick Adams landed in the art scene he hit with a bang, bringing his multidisciplinary skills to performance art, video, painting, collage, sculpture, and sound. His thought-provoking work delves into popular culture and self-image, seductively drawing your eyes in to explore layered and fragmented subject matter that you’ll feel compelled to keep revisiting. The award-winning artist earned his BFA from Pratt Institute prior to receiving his MFA from Columbia University. Since then, he’s exhibited and performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, The California African American Museum, MoMA PS1, and many more, and you’ll find his work in many permanent collections, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Just recently, he joined Sugar Hill Capital Partners’ Studio Program, which is an initiative that provides much deserved studio space for free to artists in NYC, allowing them to focus on their work. If you want to catch Adams’ work in person, check out his Sanctuary exhibition of 50 works at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) until August 12, 2018 – it’s definitely worth your time. Now for his Friday Five picks, which are beautiful reminders that we should all be doing more, speaking up more, and championing more and giving voices to the sometimes voiceless, as Adams does below.

Colin Kaepernick (Courtesy of Getty Images)

1. Standing up for what you believe
…and those who risk it all to do so. Colin Kaepernick’s selfless fight against injustice done to others so completely motivates and inspires me. His simple gesture came from the heart and created a dialog that should never have been needed. It got twisted, and abused, and cost him his professional career, but he exposed many and hopefully empowered many more striving for social justice and equality.

BLM protest (Photo courtesy of Ted S. Warren, AP)

2. The young and young-at-heart
I’m completely humbled by the activism of young people and their commitment to equality. I associate young with any forward thinkers, especially on the subjects of race, gender, identity and the environment.

David Hammons, Bliz-aard Ball Sale (Photo courtesy of Dawoud Bey)

3. David Hammons
A longtime inspiration for me, his art practice and prolific output is the mesh I walk through in my daily life. His contribution to contemporary art is a source of motivation for artists operating in the shadow of giants. I’m humbled by the fact that he and his peers made work at a time when no one in the art establishment was looking at work from black artists. To make art as a career at that time took an incredible amount of bravery and confidence, and it shows.

Derrick Adams and Mickalene Thomas (Photo courtesy of Michael Chuapoco)

4. Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas and I went to undergrad together at Pratt Institute, and share an Aquarian birthday, and have been friends ever since. We are fans of each other’s work, but in addition to that, she has always been supportive of my art practice and pivotal in its trajectory by including or recommending me for projects, and being generous with introductions. Her inclusive attitude and fun-loving spirit lifts everyone in her presence but she also has an astute business side to her personality which prompts me many times to ask myself “What would Mickie do?”

5. Black Lives Matter
This movement, founded by three women, began as “a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism,” hasn’t been getting a lot of media attention lately. Did the violence stop, is that why we haven’t heard anything? Wishful thinking. Focus seems to have shifted to other needed movements necessary to draw attention to sexual assault and gender equality. Media has a tendency to give all or nothing, or worse, recast, as in this instance, a protest group as criminal. Can we share the stage with the movement that was born out of the need to get justice for blatant, cellphone documented, video-surveilled, eye-witnessed, violence against black children in the park carrying toys #TamirRice, or black women on the highway shoulder with sass #SandraBland, among countless others? We should.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.