Derrick Adams’s Interior Illusions

Infinite Intimacy

Derrick Adams: Interior Life, a kaleidoscopic exhibition that highlights colorful geometric portraits on paper from the Baltimore-born artist’s Deconstruction Worker series, was on view at Luxembourg & Dayan in New York City from February 26 to April 20, 2019.

Adams crafts delicate and exacting compositions depicting everyday living arrangements, like the black bathroom wall tiles and patterned wallpapers shown here, to provide a glimpse into how people, the spaces they create for themselves, and their possessions relate to one another. (Courtesy Derrick Adams/Luxembourg & Dayan)

Curated by Italian provocateur Francesco Bonami, the exhibited works use cartoonish interior scenes to explore the relationship between the intimate and the infinite, an effort inspired by the Catholic idea of living “a life that seeks God in everything.”

The portraits are installed on custom wallpapers that depict elevation views of imagined interior spaces created for a set of fictitious urbanites. Each installation takes up the entirety of a gallery wall and includes several portraits surrounded by matching interior scenes that are neatly organized. Here, the artist, in arranging color-blocked portraits with lived-in interior spaces, hints that our homes—and our stuff—can take on lives of their own.

A brooding interiority results as everyday elements and formal portraits imply a delicate tension among the polished image, the imperfect soul, and a world full of material belongings.


Portraits, like Interior Life (Figure 5), shown here, are embedded within each composition and are drawn with patterned clothing, skin, and hair to convey how personal interiorities communicate ideas of object-oriented domesticity. (Courtesy Derrick Adams/Luxembourg & Dayan)

Through their collaged construction, the portraits, such as Interior Life (Figure 12), also hint at a disjointed and sometimes incongruous and uneasy confluence of objects, people, and matters of taste. (Courtesy Derrick Adams/Luxembourg & Dayan)

Blond plywood cabinets and a blue glass tile backsplash ground one playful and contemporary portrait arrangement, for example. In another view, a trio of portraits hang formally above a living room mantle, anchoring a warm room studded with African sculptures, tribal maskprint sofas, and floral-print curtains. In another, a formal scene depicting a bedroom is filled with bright red, paneled surfaces and a pair of solemn portraits that face one another without smiling.

In our contemporary world, where the illusion of infinite choice exists to dull the sting of economic precariousness, Adams makes clear a simple truth: We are what we own.

Header image: Artist Derrick Adams has created a series of interior snapshots with framed portraits fashioned from reconfigured patterns and color blocks that question the materiality and life force behind people and their possessions. (Courtesy Derrick Adams/Luxembourg & Dayan)