Upper Level Galleries
October 02, 2021 — May 01, 2022
Packaged Black brings together the work of artists Derrick Adams (b. 1970, Baltimore, MD) and Barbara Earl Thomas (b. 1948, Seattle, WA) in a collaborative, multi-media installation developed from their shared dialogue about representation, Black identity, and practices of cultural resistance. This exhibition is a synthesis of a multi-year, intergenerational, and cross-country exchange between New York-based Adams and Seattle-based Thomas that began after the two artists exhibited work alongside each other in a group show at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2017.
Adams’s work in Packaged Black engages the relationship between Black culture and commerce that is core to his practice, alongside the ways fashion and self-styling communicate identity. Among the works included are large, striking collages and sculptures inspired by his ongoing research into the life and legacy of influential African-American designer Patrick Kelly (1954–1990). Other works take inspiration from the way hair salons and wig designs shape self-image in the Black community. In complement, Thomas, who often works in printmaking, glass, drawing, and monumental sculptures made from intricately cut Tyvek and paper, translates contemporary realities and lived experience through the visual language of myth and archetypal stories. For her project at the Henry, Thomas draws upon the role of media and fairytales in shaping social expectations and her own conception of self. She is presenting all new work, including an immersive installation conceived as a ‘transformation room’ and a series of new cut-paper portraits of friends and colleagues that riff on the concept of the royal court. Adams and Thomas’s work intermingles across multiple galleries, creating an exhibition that forms an interconnected constellation of relationships that span time and place, and celebrates the creative imagination, adaptation, and resilience of Black communities.
A brochure with a conversation between the artists, alongside studio images and installation images, will accompany the exhibition.
Derrick Adams earned his BFA from Pratt Institute and MFA from Columbia University. He has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Madison and Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, New York. He is a recipient of a Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship, Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award. Adams has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg; and Museum of Arts and Design, New York, among other institutions. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem; National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati; and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. His work is held in the notable collections of the Birmingham Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He recently established The Last Resort, an artist program and residency in Baltimore.
Barbara Earl Thomas earned her BA and MFA from the University of Washington. She has been the recipient of the Howard S. Wright Award, Stranger Genius Award, Mayor’s Arts Award, and Hauberg Fellowship. Thomas has completed residencies at the Pilchuck School of Glass, Stanwood; Museum of Glass, Tacoma; and Goathead Press, Tieton. She has held solo exhibitions at the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science; Seattle Art Museum; Bainbridge Island Art Museum; and Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham. Thomas has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including at the Bellevue Arts Museum; Northwest African American Museum, Seattle; and Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. Her work is included in the public collections of the Portland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and Tacoma Art Museum.