Artist Derrick Adams is driven by his dedication to uplift Black joy and culture. This commitment takes shape in the artist’s diverse range of approaches to artmaking, from traditional media—such as painting, sculpture, and performance—to broader creative endeavors such as fashion, NFTs, and community engagement projects. Among his celebrated works are the more than one hundred paintings of Black subjects relaxing on bright, fantastical pool floats that make up his Floater series, and a new series titled Beauty World that features large, colorful, semi-abstracted portraits of mannequin heads adorned with sculptural wigs and eye-catching makeup. Currently on view at the US Embassy in Nouakchott, Mauritania, are Head #12 and Head #17 from Adams’s Deconstruction Worker portrait series, in which Adams collaged together wood-grain-patterned vinyl and wallpaper to convey gradations in skin and hair color. The richness of his formal techniques for artmaking are married to the complexity of Black history and culture, with the emphasis on line and color as strong as his historical references.

Adams also founded The Last Resort Artist Retreat, a series of both artist and non-artist residencies that bring together Black creatives for an invitation-only escape from the world. In a swing into the digital world, Adams was commissioned by hip-hop icon Jay-Z to create an NFT marking the 25th anniversary of his debut album, Reasonable Doubt.

Adams will be joined in conversation by Rhea L. Combs, who is director of curatorial affairs for the National Portrait Gallery.

This program is presented in partnership with the US Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies and the National Portrait Gallery.

ASL translation will be provided on Zoom and CART (real-time captioning) will be provided across all platforms. If you have any questions about accessibility for this program, please email