Hudson River Museum Presents Derrick Adams: Buoyant

On view March 7–June 14, 2020

Press images can be downloaded here.

Derrick Adams (American, born 1970) delves deeply and fearlessly into the nooks and crannies of Black life and culture, unveiling a nuanced wholeness of humanity. The multidisciplinary, New York-based artist depicts a world where joy, love, leisure, and even prosaic normalcy play central roles, methodically filling the many voids and omissions in popular visual culture. The Hudson River Museum presents Derrick Adams: Buoyant, which is the first museum exhibition of Adams’ Floaters Series, and will debut We Came to Party and Plan, a new body of related works the artist conceived during his summer 2019 Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva.

Executed between 2014 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. Adams recontextualizes this classic visual trope to create a more accurate and fuller representation of the lived experience. The simplicity of imagery in these paintings invites viewers to bring their own notions into the scene, leaving room to think, question, and imagine scenes that have often been missing in mainstream American media.

Much like water, the art will flow to unexpected spaces. In addition to works from the Floaters Series, the exhibition will feature an immersive installation entitled We Came to Party and Plan. This newly created body of work invites viewers into a party atmosphere full of complexity. As with his Floaters Series, I Came to Party and Plan explores the multi-dimensionality of the Black lived experience. Here, a party is not solely a place for celebration, it is a complex network of human interactions leading to outcomes that range from the mundane to the revolutionary.

Masha Turchinsky, Director, states, “It is with enormous pride that we present the work of Derrick Adams at the Hudson River Museum. Through his insightful approach, Adams creates archetypal images that are both familiar and forward projecting. The figures may be casually relaxing in a pool or socializing at a party, but these depictions inspired by real life powerfully reshape social structures, challenging the status quo in the art world and in society.”

The exhibition is organized by the Hudson River Museum, and co-curated by James E. Bartlett, founder of Open Art, and Laura Vookles, Chair of the Hudson River Museum’s Curatorial Department. “Derrick Adams is truly a seminal artist of our time,” states James Bartlett. “Drawing equally from historical references, personal history, and the communal lived experience, he has created a decades-long body of work that is both materially and aesthetically diverse yet narratively intertwined. His Floaters Series, as well as the newly created We Came to Party and Plan, are consummate examples of his depth and breadth as an artist.”

“I want these works to connect with people on an emotional level and tap into their lived experiences,” says Derrick Adams. “Sometimes a normal social gathering can represent a radical space. I’m often inspired by the people around me at parties, and how they are making important changes to society. You can go to a social event and still get things accomplished.”

Beyond their superficial form, Adams’ sun-soaked figures also reveal a tangle of multifaceted human complexity. They evoke nostalgic images of summer-time fun, and they may also jar some viewers into reflecting on more traumatic lived or learned histories. From the horrific journey across Atlantic waters of the Middle Passage, to the long history of segregation at America’s swimming pools and beaches, Black people’s relationship with water has not always been one of carefree joy. While Adams does not specifically focus his artistic lens on this fraught history, he fully recognizes and engages with the memories and historical trauma that can be kindled in many viewers.

In other areas of the Museum, the artist will curate a selection of works from the Hudson River Museum’s collection, casting a fresh perspective on historical and twentieth-century works related to the subjects of water and leisure. In the HRM’s historic home Glenview, visitors will discover artistic interruptions on bookshelves, mantles, and subtle spaces within the Gilded Age period rooms. The exhibition will be accompanied by a rich array of interdisciplinary programs, including artist and author tours, public discussions, music, spoken word performances, film, and studio workshops.


The fully illustrated catalog will feature essays by James Bartlett and art critic and writer Antwaun Sargent, an interview between Adams and artist Mickalene Thomas, and a section dedicated to Adams’ selection of works from the Museum’s collection.

About Derrick Adams

Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary New York-based artist who works in painting, sculpture, performance, video, and sound. Adams was recently named a “trailblazing” artist by Departures magazine. In 2019, Adams was selected to create a permanent public art installation at the Nostrand LIRR station of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, featuring over thirty colorful glass panels depicting his rendition of the Crown Heights, Brooklyn, community where he lives and works. In 2018, he collaborated with Pyer Moss to challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue through fashion.

A recipient of the 2018 American Family Fellowship from the Gordon Parks Foundation, a 2014 S.J. Weiler Award, and a 2009 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. Adams received his MFA from Columbia University, a BFA from Pratt Institute, and is a Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a Marie Walsh Sharpe alumnus. His art is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Hudson River Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Derrick Adams is represented by Luxembourg & Dayan and Salon 94 in New York and by the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago.

The exhibition is organized by the Hudson River Museum. In July 2020, Derrick Adams: Buoyant will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, which is supporting the development of the show; it will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the Southeast.

Image: Derrick Adams. Floater 59, 2017. Acrylic paint, pencil, and fabric on paper. Private collection.


About the Hudson River Museum

The Hudson River Museum is a preeminent cultural institution in Westchester County and the New York metropolitan area. Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, the HRM is a place where diverse communities come together and experience the power of art, science, and history.

The Museum offers engaging experiences for every age and interest, with an ever-growing collection of American art; dynamic exhibitions that range from notable nineteenth-century paintings to contemporary art installations; Glenview, an 1877 house on the National Register of Historic Places; a state-of-the-art Planetarium; an environmental teaching gallery, Hudson Riverama; and an outdoor Amphitheater. Accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting these multidisciplinary offerings, which are complemented by an array of public programs that encourage creative expression, collaboration, and artistic and scientific discovery.

The Hudson River Museum’s general operations are supported in part by Westchester County, the City of Yonkers, the Yonkers Board of Education, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Westchester Delegation of the New York State Assembly and Senate.

Hours and Admission: The Hudson River Museum is open Wednesday–Sunday, 12–5pm. Museum Admission: Adults $8; Youth (3–18) $4; Seniors (62+) $5; Students (with valid ID) $5; Veterans $5; Children (under 3) FREE; Members FREE. Planetarium Tickets: Adults $5; Youth (3–18) $3; Seniors (62+) $4; Students (with valid ID) $4; Veterans $4; Children (under 3) FREE; Members FREE. The Museum is accessible by Metro-North, by Bee-Line Bus Route #1, by car, and by bike. Make your visit a One-Day Getaway, and buy a combined rail and admission discount ticket. Learn more about Metro-North Deals & Getaways.