Derrick Adams and Mickalene Thomas
Reception: Friday October 4, 5-8pm | Exhibition Dates: October 4-12, 2019
Featuring new artworks by Derrick Adams and Mickalene Thomas. This exhibition coincides with the completion of two new editions by these artists: Derrick Adams, Self Portrait on Float and Mickalene Thomas, July 1977.
During his first visit to Tandem Press, Derrick Adams created an extraordinary woodblock print titled Self Portrait on Float. In this stunning self-portrait, the artist placed himself in a unicorn-shaped pool float. It is one image of many within Derrick Adams’ ongoing body of work known as the “Floaters,” immediately recognized by deep blue backgrounds and depictions of African American figures lounging on inflatable pool floats. The floats range from unicorns, as depicted in Self Portrait on Float, to donuts, Tootsie Rolls, flamingos, and sharks, all bright and colorful and full of the playful whimsy of a day spent at the pool.
The “Floaters” are, more or less, a commentary on what Adams has referred to as the “joy of the present”. They are celebrations of time set aside for rest and relaxation, but they are also views of leisure that are not typically seen within popular culture. In January 2018, during an interview with Katy Donoghue for Whitewall magazine, Adams spoke about the impetus for this series of work. He came across pictures of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. on vacation, and he wondered “Why aren’t these images promoted? It’s rare that you see images of Civil Rights leaders, or people subject to opposition, presented in a way of leisure and relaxation. If you are a revolutionary, you have to regenerate your energy. There is nothing wrong with that.”
Derrick Adams’ work proposes that engaging in leisure as a form of relaxation and reflection can be a political act when embraced by members of black or working-class communities. The theme of leisure in relation to Black America has been of continued interest to Adams, and he has explored it not only through the “Floaters” but also through a few other bodies of work, notably his 2018 exhibition Sanctuary which was directly inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, a series of guides for Black travelers published from 1936 through 1966.
Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He received his BFA from Pratt Institute and his MFA from Columbia University. Derrick Adams has been exhibiting extensively since 2001, including exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and more. His work is included in many permanent public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“To see yourself, and for others to see you is a form of validation, and I am interested in that very mysterious and mystical line: that is, how we relate to each other in the world. I started thinking about art history and looking at these iconic paintings that we held up as very important images that have changed the world of how we see women at that particular time, and beauty. Some were controversial but they shifted things, and I thought: why isn’t the image of a Black woman held up to that same light?” – Mickalene Thomas
In Mickalene Thomas’s newest print July 1977, an alluring, sexy, young Black woman captivates the viewer with her sparkling eyes, her poise, her self-assurance, and her dazzling and mischievous smile. She confidently looks out at the viewer, demanding to be seen and acknowledged, as if to say, “I’m here. I exist. I’m present.” Thomas placed this figure in front of an abstracted background which exudes and echoes her joyfulness. This highly complex print is the third edition that Thomas has created with Tandem Press, and like much of her work, it incorporates extensive use of mixed media collage. A multitude of techniques and materials have been used to create this piece, including relief, screen print, intaglio, chine collé, and archival inkjet printmaking techniques as well as gold and copper foil stamping and wood veneer.
Mickalene Thomas’s practice is multi-disciplinary and expansive, as she consistently works within painting, collage, photography, video, and installation. As stated on her website, Mickalene Thomas’s work, drawing from art history and popular culture, creates a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty, and power. Blurring the distinction between object and subject, concrete and abstract, real and imaginary, Thomas construct complex portraits, landscapes, and interior spaces in order to examine how identity, gender, and sense-of-self are informed by the ways women (and “feminine” spaces) are represented in art and popular culture.
Mickalene Thomas received her BFA from the Pratt Institute and MFA from Yale University School of Art. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has had numerous solo exhibitions nationally and internationally at institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Aspen Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and many more. Her work is included in many prestigious public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and more.
This exhibition was made possible through support from the Anonymous Fund.