The History Of Black TV Is Explored In Artist Derrick Adams New Exhibit 'ON' [Photo by Andy Romer]
The History Of Black TV Is Explored In Artist Derrick Adams New Exhibit 'ON' [Photo by Andy Romer]

The History Of Black TV Is Explored In Artist Derrick Adams New Exhibit 'ON'

TV is no longer quite the communal fireplace of storytelling it once was in American culture. But though it no longer takes total precedence over the way we watch and consume media, through streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, TV is reaching more viewers than ever. Even if it is a more fractured media landscape, TV is still an all-important means of critiquing and understanding media's effect on people.

This is exactly what Derrick Adams is doing with his latest exhibit, titled simply: ON. Adams explores a conceptual history of blackness through its televised presence. As a press release for the event explains:

"Through large-scale, boldly colored mixed media collages, performance, sound pieces, and illuminated sculptures, ON continues Adams' investigation of consumerism and the dramatization of black figures in entertainment and popular culture."

ON encompasses three gallery spaces at the Pioneer Works arts center in Brooklyn, with the main space featuring nine large wall hangings that resemble old school television sets. In each of these nine sets is a black person that's assigned a particular black TV personality to portray or mimic. From George Foreman's infamous Foreman Grill commercial to Will Smith's The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, the participants are expected to sell their blackness to sell a product.

"I wanted to show the media bombardment of black representation and black performative gestures and mannerisms all happening very quickly at the same time," Adams explained in an interview with Huffington Post. "It becomes something fragmented, distorted, overly expressive, this bombarding form of personality."

Although it's a critique of television it's also a celebration of the black TV stars that Adams grew up watching. "I'm not really interested in being negative," Adams said. "I like all these black figures who are over the top. I want to celebrate them."

The smaller gallery spaces will include sculptural works such as lamps with braided wigs as shades, as well as a collage of video stills of 1990's television psychic Miss Cleo. The exhibition opened last Friday and will remain open until July 17. ON is free and open to the public, too.