Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome to Monument City

Derrick Adams
, The Root of it All, 2010
During an 1827 presidential visit, John Quincy Adams dubbed Baltimore the "Monumental City," adding that he hoped it would see as much prosperity and happiness as it had seen strife. A gritty little metropolis just outside DC and Philly, Baltimore still glitters on society's margins, a metonym for both the plight and promise of the 20th-century American metropolis. Its been variously known as "Charm City," "B-More" and "Bodymore," depending on whether one's primary identification has been gleaned from a reality show about artisan cake-craft, a banging strain of club music or The Wire.

In Brooklyn-based, artist Derrick Adams' imminent New York gallery exhibition, he riffs off the sacred/secular proclivities of Black civilizations past and present with the sounds of his hometown on repeat. Baltimore's palette colors the monumental sculptures, photographs and multimedia pieces on display from January 23 to February 28th at the Collette Blanchard Gallery.

Replete with plastic-coated, African totems, solid brick walls with shimmering silver mortar, and boxing iconography, Adam's latest work meditates on Black hero worship and the nostalgic, innocent space between a child's dreaming and being. What will the wreckage of contemporary Black civilization tell those sifting through the rubble? Mike Tyson and Darth Vader idols might give voice to a richer story than a Battle Monument to the war of 1812. They'll certainly speak more plainly about a shared American identity.

Micah Salkind