Derrick Adams - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Phillips
  • Figure in the Urban Landscape 2 demonstrates Derrick Adams unique portrayal of Black American leisure, celebration and joy that has garnered the Brooklyn-based artist widespread acclaim. Executed in 2017, the present work belongs to the highly sought-after Figures in the Urban Landscape series that evolved from Adam’s Deconstruction Worker series. As in preceding works such as Head #4, 2011, Collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Adams presents the viewer with a side profile of a figure, rendered in fragmented planes reminiscent of Cubism. Fusing modernist abstraction with such disparate influences as contemporary pop culture and African-inspired patterned fabrics, Adams creates a multi-layered portrait of a young boy–framed by intersecting city streets atop which collaged miniature automobiles zoom around.


    Adams works are unique in the way they at once resonate universally–they depict moments of joy, leisure, pride or tenderness that we can all relate to–and are highly specific in their radical celebration of Black culture. While Adams draws attention to deep seated inequalities, he does so through a affirmative and joyous lens.

    "With these works, I was thinking about how important it is for us not to always see ourselves in a way that is entertaining, but to allow people to see a glimpse into our reality and the normalcy of how we live."
    —Derrick Adams

    Figure in the Urban Landscape 2 conjures a universal image of childhood, where the subject happens to be Black. As Adams noted, “I think the most important thing about black people is, we exist in this space of normalcy in our daily life. I think it’s important that we are enabled to see this idea of being normal or just existing as human, and that we experience it. And I like to capture those elements of normalcy in my work.”i


    In his Figures in the Urban Landscape series, of works in which Adams framed his subjects with abstracted city streets and model cars. While infusing the work with a sense of playfulness, the grid-like street structure formally mimics the way in which urban spaces have historically contained Black bodies. Of the series, Adams explained: “Every space we’ve lived in historically has been designed to keep us contained. And how to keep us not wanting to leave, entertained with this false sense of neighborhoods that we feel confound to. Neighborhoods that were created for us to stay in. So with this work, I’m discussing different ways of how we can inhabit space, and how we are not limited to these oppressive boundaries that have been designed for us.”ii

    Collector’s Digest


    • The present work belongs to the Figure in the Urban Landscape series, which has commanded record prices at auction. Figure in the Urban Landscape 31, 2019, achieved the auction world record of $250,000 in March 2021.

    • Adams has garnered substantial institutional recognition, with works held in collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

    • The artist’s solo exhibition Derrick Adams: LOOKS at the Cleveland Museum of Art is on view until May 29, 2022.


    i Derrick Adams, quoted in Danny Dunson, “Derrick Adams, The Ins And Outs: Figures Of The Urban Landscape”,, online
    ii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      Tilton Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Tilton Gallery, Derrick Adams: Figures in the Urban Landscape, November 8, 2017–January 6, 2018

    • Artist Biography

      Derrick Adams

      American • 1970

      Through the mediums of collage, video, sculpture and drawing, Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams explores the way mass media affects identity, particularly in the context of African Americans in contemporary culture.

      In his collage works mimicking television screens, Adams takes his source imagery from screen captures of old clips from YouTube, which he then uses as reference. “The images come from…everything from ‘Good Times’ to ‘Coming to America’ to Oprah on the news…These images I’m taking from all these shows—from comedy to news or whatever—all are representations of black characterization…These images can be problematic because they’re such a high-animated state that they become more like caricatures of themselves”. In rendering these reference images with blocks of color, Adams confronts the media’s deconstruction of reality. 

      View More Works

Property from a Prominent European Collection


Figure in the Urban Landscape 2

signed and dated "Adams 2017" on the reverse
acrylic, graphite, ink, fabric, paper, grip tape and model cars on panel
20 3/4 x 16 3/4 in. (52.7 x 42.5 cm)
Executed in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $69,300

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 19 May 2022