Derrick Adams: Transformers
Luxembourg & Dayan, London
February 10 - April 4, 2020
In Derrick Adams: Transformers (2020), Luxembourg & Dayan, London, presented striking large-scale examples from Derrick Adams’s Beauty World series, begun in 2019. Beauty World included works from the artist’s Style Variations cycle, which depict single figures, and Style Variation Grid, which depicts 16. To create these ambitious works, Adams reproduced a digital photograph of a wig mannequin on canvas and then painted in acrylic various hairstyles and makeup. The resulting works investigate the physical and cultural construction of the human form and its role in shaping identity. In particular, the paintings explore Black feminine empowerment achieved through versatile acts of styling, camouflaging, and costuming.
Beauty World is inspired by the display windows of beauty supply stores, wig shops, braiding and nail salons, and hair boutiques that Adams has observed in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Typical of certain urban areas, these establishments are a constant reminder of possibilities for physical metamorphosis. By reproducing and rendering in paint a mannequin found in these storefronts, the artist pays tribute to the value of specific social rituals and acts of roleplay. The Style Variation and Style Variation Grid works from his Beauty World series celebrate the extraordinary efforts of those who partake in beautification and self-transformation for any reason.
Beauty World expands on Adams’s acclaimed Deconstruction Worker series of geometric portraits, while exemplifying his artistic pursuits. His work probes the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image and the relationship between person and monument as they coexist and embody one another. Adams is also deeply immersed in questions of how African-American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism. In formal terms, his practice is rooted in Deconstructivist philosophies related to the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface and the marriage of complex and unexpected forms. His tendency to layer, hybridize, and collage images, materials, and sensory experiences links Adams to a lineage of pioneers ranging from Hannah Höch and Henri Matisse to William H. Johnson and Romare Bearden.