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With a diverse practice that comprises mixed-media collage, sculpture, drawing, performance, and video, Derrick Adams (b. 1970) probes how visual culture influences notions of identity. Looking to representations of Black characters that circulate in popular culture, advertising, and even pedagogical teaching tools, he exposes the constructed nature of racial imagery through both his subject matter and working process. This is particularly evident in his cloth and paper collages, in which nuanced depictions of African Americans are frequently set within mediatized environments, such as television sets, to draw out the imbrication between media representations and the propagation of racial stereotypes. Such a conceptual strategy is exemplified in Colorbar Constellation 9 (2016), which incorporates assorted swatches of painted paper, printed fabric, and a TV Guide magazine cover featuring Oprah Winfrey. While these components are largely positioned within a wood-grain patterned vinyl frame meant to represent a vintage television set, one vibrant strip of material—likely cut from a West African dashiki—extends past the confines of the screen. This subversion of the typically illusionistic environment controlled by the mass media suggests a desire to reframe who and what stories are presented and to examine how such circulated representations of individuals change the course of social history.
Photo: Christopher Garcia Valle