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Collages Contrast Black TV Representation and Reality

The works in Derrick Adams’ new show pit technicolor TV fantasy against the muted hues of real life.

Most television doesn’t purport to represent reality, but despite this, the images on our screens become a reality of their own. "Mass media outlets like television, radio, print and internet are all reflections of our basic reality,” says multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams. "It's a challenge to operate independently from it if you consider yourself a participant in contemporary culture, and like to stay informed, which I do."


The works at his latest show, two collage series titled Live and In Color and Gray Area, are Adams’ attempt to tackle that challenge. The engaging, and well, colorful works of Live and In Color are framed by images of vintage televisions. They recall the stereotypical representations of black people that prevailed on '70s TV shows like What’s Happening!! and Good Times. Blacks recognized that the characters presented were often racist stereotypes, but this was also the first era that found black actors in large numbers on American TV. This tension between celebrating overdue pop-culture recognition and rejecting inaccurate and offense portrayals is clear in Adams’ work, which recognizes the absurdity of this imagery without completely condemning it. "The works from Live and In Color demonstrate positions of spectacle and the desire for the subject to entertain,” writes Adams. "The figures… are placed in an environment of bold color-blocked grids, juxtaposed patterns and exaggerated facial expressions - collaged together - witnessed through a vintage TV portal."

The second series provides a foil to the rainbow-hued television portraits of Live and In Color. "The Gray Area figures, on the other hand, are up front and at rest, residing in their own world, unbothered and regal,” Adams tells the Creators Project. Just as real life is never quite exciting as television, the muted grey-hued portraits of Gray Area aren’t as immediately eye catching as the collages of Live and in Color. But in presenting regular people during quiet moments, they’re infinitely more real and familiar.


“Together,” says Adams, " the two bodies of work can be viewed as how we are viewed and/or present ourselves in conversation with how we really exist or desire to exist."

On Your Way, 2015 (mixed media collage on paper)43 in. x 34 in.

You can see Live and In Color and Gray Area at Paris’ Anne de Villlepoix Gallery until March 19th. For more information, click here.


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