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Derrick Adams and Nuit Banai in Conversation at Mills Gallery


New York-based artist Derrick Adams sat down with art historian Nuit Banai to discuss his current show at Mills Gallery, The World According to Derrick: Performative Objects in Formation. Derrick Adams works in a wide range of media, including performance, installation, sculpture, and photography and has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, MOMA/PS1 among many other venues. This is his first solo exhibition in Boston.

Nuit Banai opened the conversation by pointing to the title of the show and asked Derrick to talk about its significance and how it relates to the wider field of contemporary art practice and his work. Derrick mentioned he wanted to make the title seem informal--an informal description of his work and of who he is as a person and of his mental process. He wanted the objects to be a residue of ideas versus the objects being the main things about his work. Adams always thinks of his work not as necessarily being a finished piece, but as an extension of his ideas. Further elaborating on the title, Adams said it is more about who he is as a maker, because the objects should be able to stand by themselves in the show.

“As an artist you have to create this idea of your own reality just to keep making art. The fact that we make art I think is absurd anyways as an artist.”

Nuit Banai asked Derrick Adams how he envisions the activation of his objects in the gallery space or how they find their way to the “white cube.” “I am more interested in communicating a certain emotion of the way objects are made and the way they are extended and the way they are manipulated and the way of getting an emotional response from the viewer, and it’s not an emotional response like crying, but just a physical response to something that is the physicality of the object in space.”

For Derrick Adams, making art is more about showing than telling, “if the art could explain what the work is about, there is no reason to make the work,” adding that he hopes that his art can exist beyond what he thinks of it while making it. “If it can’t, then the art has not been successful in my mind.”

The concept of multiculturalism was also discussed that evening. Derrick said he never felt that his work was about his race or that it was something he tried to get away from, but rather it was a something that evolved naturally. He described himself as an American artist making work that Americans can relate to. “I never felt like I had to make work that spoke to a bigger conversation. My work has always been very personal—and really about the perspective I am familiar with and that I can talk about, and that I have experience with.”

The exhibition at Mills Gallery represents works spanning over a decade of artistic production. Derrick Adams will perform “Feed them with a Long Spoon” on Friday September 7th at 7:00pm.

"The World According to Derrick: Performative Objects in Formation" is on view until September 23, 2012 at Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts.

All images are courtesy of the artist and the Boston Center for the Arts.

About Author

Anulfo AKA The Evolving Critic is a preservationist and blogger with a strong interest in architectural history, urbanism, and the parallels between fashion and architecture. He holds degrees in Tourism Planning and Development from the University of New Hampshire and in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University. Anulfo has written for the Boston Society of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He oversaw BR&S's blog, Our Daily Red, from 2012-14.

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