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When Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams was a ten-year-old student, he entered and won the “My Heritage Myself” art competition, for which his artwork was displayed in Baltimore’s City Hall. Today, as an internationally shown artist, Adams’ work returns to The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall for his first-ever solo presentation in his hometown, “Where I’m From.”
Whitewall spoke with Adams just before the opening earlier this fall. Derrick had been working on digitally archiving his family photographs with his sister. That sparked the new series of paintings. “We went through photo albums and starting sharing images, and I thought wow, these would make great paintings,” he said. “At the beginning I was looking at composition, and different background and landscapes that signified Baltimore.”
A little over a year ago, the curator at The Gallery reached out to Adams to see if he was interested in doing a project together. “I automatically thought I should show these pieces of work. I thought it would be the perfect place,” Adams said.
On view through November 22, the exhibition features 10 new large-scale artworks, created from scenes of his childhood in the city, as well as others from his family’s photo albums. The show is a continuation of Adams’ artistic practice, which explores self-image and forward projection through a lens that fragments and manipulates structure and surface.
“I thought that this particular exhibition would be much better in a public space, people who are not necessarily looking for art will see it,” said Adams. “I feel like this is an important part of being an artist—bringing in other audiences that don’t necessarily have a trained eye.”
Adams shared that he’s been going home to Baltimore a lot over the past year, for both personal and creative reasons. “I’ve started enjoying the city again. I’ve been away since going to school at Pratt,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to feel more connected to Baltimore and there have been more creative activations in the community of Baltimore and recognized by the city.”
“One of the many missions of The Gallery in Baltimore City Hall is to provide a viable platform for Baltimore City-based artists and creative innovators to showcase their vision and voice,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “With our featured artist, Derrick Adams, it is a place for us as Baltimoreans all to be proud, to celebrate, and to welcome Derrick back home. We are extremely proud of our native son who has risen to the pinnacle in the art world.”