Art-Driven

Jim Crow-era restrictions on black travel and leisure are reimagined in multimedia show

Art East News
Jim Crow-era restrictions on black travel and leisure are reimagined in multimedia show. Artist Derrick Adams in his studio. (Courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design)
Jim Crow-era restrictions on black travel and leisure are reimagined in multimedia show. Artist Derrick Adams in his studio. (Courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design)

Multimedia artist Derrick Adams will premiere his first major museum exhibition in New York with Derrick Adams: Sanctuary. Hosted at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Derrick Adams: Sanctuary draws on The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travelers during the Jim Crow era, to reinterpret themes of mobility, freedom and leisure.

Sanctuary captures the spirit of road travel at a time when black Americans were not able to move safely around the country,” said Guest Curator Dexter Wimberly in a statement. “When I think about freedom in the truest sense of the word, I’m struck by how relevant The Green Book still is today.”

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will present eight mixed-media collages on wood panels, as well as large-scale sculptures.

Through the inclusion of politically and historically relevant found fabrics in his collages, Adams comments on a period when infrastructure connected the country physically but deeply entrenched systems of exclusion prevented black travelers from crossing racial boundaries. His work highlights the importance of leisure for black Americans, as they could be legally denied safe spaces when traveling until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Shannon R. Stratton, MAD’s William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, stressed the material’s modern day relevance. “It’s a nod to leisure as subject while acknowledging collage’s historic relationship to current events and pop culture. As part of MAD’s 2018 spring season, The Personal Is the Political, Adams demonstrates how vernacular materials and accessible techniques have been fertile ground for powerful, yet approachable, expressions of selfhood.”

The 1940 edition of The Green Book. The cover lists the types of stops found inside. (Courtesy The Museum of Arts and Design)

Accompanying Adams’ show will be the opening of Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America in March. The exhibition will dive into the history of The Green Book in an interactive project space, and present digitized copies of the original text. Ultimately the show’s organizers hope that this new exploration of author Victor Hugo Green’s work will allow museum guests to frame 21st century issues of mobility and race in a broader historical context.

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will open Wednesday, January 24th with a special preview event for members from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, and run from Friday, January 25th through August 12th. Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America will run from March 1st through April 8th.

Derrick Adams: Sanctuary has been guest curated by Dexter Wimberly, Executive Director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, with support from the MAD Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio. Samantha De Tillio also curated Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America.

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