Derrick Adams - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Derrick Adams’ Figure in the Urban Landscape 37, 2019, demonstrates the artist’s engagement with themes of Black joy and leisure. The present work comes to auction off the heels of the artist’s critically acclaimed solo show at the Flag Art Foundation in New York from January to March and Gagosian Gallery’s recently announced representation of the artist. A major public installation of his work will also be included in the exhibition Beyond Granite at the National Mall in Washington D.C. this summer.


    “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.”
    —Derrick Adams


    Executed in 2019, Figure in the Urban Landscape 37 is amongst the highly sought-after Figures in the Urban Landscape works from Adam’s Deconstruction Worker series. As in preceding works such as Head #4, 2011, in the 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 man framed by city streets atop which collaged miniature automobiles zoom around.


    Utilizing model cars and abstracted city streets, Adams infuses his work with a sense of playfulness. At the same time, the streets refer to more serious considerations of contemporary urban life, formally mimicking the way in which urban spaces have historically restricted Black bodies. While Adams draws attention to deep-seated inequalities, he remains committed to a joyous artistic lens. Adams’ prideful, tender figure embodies his commitment to representing the Black experience.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • 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


Figure in the Urban Landscape 37

signed and dated "Derrick Adams 2019" on the reverse
acrylic, ink, fabric on paper collage, grip tape and model cars on panel
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $152,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023