Collection Spotlight: Derrick Adams Selects
Derrick Adams curated a selection of artworks from the Museum’s permanent collection that highlight our interactions with water: visual, physical, and emotional.
Water is a classic element of landscape painting found in many artworks in the Museum’s collection. Flowing rivers, placid lakes, roaring falls, and turbulent seas are often used to characterize a locale, anchor a composition, or demonstrate painting prowess. In keeping with the themes of leisure and celebration present in his work on view in Buoyant, Derrick Adams curated a selection of artworks from the Museum’s permanent collection that highlight our interactions with water: visual, physical, and emotional.
Adams’ selections cover a wide range of styles, from representational to abstract, and span the 1870s to the 2010s. They include personal snapshots and even a railroad poster. In a colorful promotion for Hudson Valley tourism, artist Leslie Ragan placed a figure on the Yonkers hillside enjoying the Palisades scenery, which MetroNorth passengers—and visitors to the Museum—still enjoy today. The devoted depiction of natural scenery, with sublime cliffs towering over one small human, recalls paintings of the Hudson River School, at the same time the sunny day, placid river, and relaxed pose suggest something of the carefree ease of the Floaters.
Included in Adams’ selection are prints by Winslow Homer, Paul Cadmus, and Eric Fischl, each of whom depicted swimmers at beaches throughout their careers, seeking these scenes for their thematic potential. Dynamic composition is the overriding element in Robert Motherwell’s print of an Italian coastline—an abstraction of land and sea, where the human presence is merely implied. From the photography collections, Adams chose images of women sunbathing by Mary Frey, an exuberant boy leaping into a public pool by Kathy Gardner, and snapshots of sailors relaxing, keepsakes of Navy ensign Luther Garrison Jr. An artwork by Winfred Rembert radiates the same expression of Black joy that pervades the Floaters and We Came to Party and Plan.
In addition, Adams’ selection features a recently acquired original copy of the Ebony issue that featured a photo essay about Martin Luther King Jr.’s trip to Jamaica, which originally motivated Adams’ exploration of Black leisure.
This is radical imagery. This photoshoot is one of the primary inspirations for my body of work, Culture Club, and its Floater series. That during the time of unrest and struggle, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to rest and recharge with his family on vacation, showing his love of family and his humanity. That these images don’t come up as much in a Google search was the motivating factor in my creating work of Black bodies at leisure.