Derrick Adams - New Now New York Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | Phillips
  • “The church was like a big HD television for people. I was always fascinated with the power that artists had at that time to create these illusionistic structures that mimicked reality around them in some way, and were able to get emotional responses from people and enlighten them about things they thought were important. In our generation, television has that same godly presence; it’s always there, always visible, seeing you as much as you’re seeing it.” —Derrick Adams

     Executed in 2016, Derrick Adams’ Colorbar Constellation 6 (Sanford and Son) explores the intersection of art history and the American iconography of consumerism through the television screen. From the artist’s celebrated Live and in Color series depicting vintage televisions without signal, the present iteration uses a combination of vivid colors, traditional fabrics and familiar subject matter to highlight the ways in which Black characters are portrayed in pop culture. Works from the series have been exhibited across the nation, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, and the African American Museum, Los Angeles.


    Romare Bearden, The Block, 1971 © Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. 

     The Influence of a Sitcom


    Drawing inspiration from celebrated collage artists such as Hannah Höch and Romare Bearden, Colorbar Constellation 6 (Sanford and Son) is a personal interpretation of the iconic SMPTE color bar pattern. Choosing an abstract representation of the infamous “loss-of-signal" image, the work utilizes a range of applications and craft techniques. Adams includes a vintage TV Guide featuring characters from the comedy sitcom Sanford and Son, which follows the story of a money-conscious father who is in constant quarrel with his son. The show was a precursor to several family sitcoms in the 1980s and is the highest-rated half-hour series in the history of NBC, alluding to the history of Black media in the United States.  


    Harkening back to a central theme in Renaissance art in a highly contemporary context, Adams features imagery geared towards the consumer, employing the television as a means for creating community. “I realized that there is a stigma with certain types of imposed imagery that has been placed on the black body through media and through history. We have accepted certain stigmas as kind of defining who we are.”i Although the central figures in Colorbar Constellation 6 (Sanford and Son) appear to be tucked away within the larger composition, they belong to a narrative that expands beyond the physical and metaphoric limits of the screen. The sculptural elements of the tinfoil antenna and fabric collage aid the artist in achieving this goal, reaffirming its influence beyond a flat screen. 

    “I think you can make work about these characters or characterizations of blacks on TV and still make a universal conversation because TV is about universality.” —Derrick Adams

    Detail of the present work.

     i. Derrick Adams, quoted in Jewels Dodson, ”Derrick Adams: Be Who You Want To Be,” Juxtapoz Magazineonline.

    • Provenance

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

    • Exhibited

      New York, Pioneer Works, Derrick Adams: ON, June 10–July 17, 2016, pp. 44–45, 47, 52 (illustrated, pp. 44–45; installation view illustrated, pp. 47, 52)
      Los Angeles, California African American Museum, Derrick Adams: Network, March 1–July 1, 2017
      Denver, Museum of Contemporary Art, Derrick Adams: Transmission, June 8–August 26, 2018

    • Literature

      Katy Donaghue, “Derrick Adams is Focusing on a Positive Vision for the Future,” whitewall, January 15, 2018, online (California African American Museum, Los Angeles, 2017 installation view illustrated)
      Corinne Anderson, “Four Artists Take Over the MCA with TV, Discussions of Race and Gallons of Honey,” 303 Magazine, June 11, 2018, online (Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, 2018 installation view illustrated)

    • 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


Colorbar Constellation 6 (Sanford and Son)

acrylic, printed paper and fabric collage, TV antenna, aluminum foil and pigment printed canvas on fabric-backed vinyl mounted to wood cleat
79 x 44 in. (200.7 x 111.8 cm)
Executed in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Contact Specialist

Avery Semjen
Head of Sale, New Now
212 940 1207

New Now

New York Auction 28 September 2022