Tags for: Derrick Adams: LOOKS
  • Special Exhibition

Derrick Adams: LOOKS

Sunday, December 5, 2021–Sunday, May 29, 2022
Location:  230 Photography
Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Galleries

About The Exhibition

The wig shops in the artist’s Brooklyn neighborhood inspired the nine monumental paintings of wigs on mannequin heads in Derrick Adams: LOOKS. Hair and wigs carry enormous cultural and political weight in Black culture in particular, rendering them powerful tools for self-representation. Adams seizes on the ability to command one’s image via the change of a wig. He aims to make the desire to be unique and stand out—through the practice he refers to as “costuming”—normal to the broader public.

His paintings do not show generic mannequin heads: the geometry of the faces is individualized with varied skin tones and makeup to complement the attitudes projected by the wigs. The artist views self-adornment as powerful. The larger-than-life scale and the direct gaze of the heads give them command of the gallery space. These paintings are about being seen—honoring spectacle, celebrating what the artist calls everyday “fantastic-ness,” and telegraphing power over one’s image.

This exhibition is a collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Museum of Art in celebration of Cleveland Clinic’s centennial. Both institutions are deeply committed to the value that all people need to see and be seen with empathy, and each organization contributes to that goal through art. A cornerstone of Cleveland Clinic’s care model, empathy is embodied in the diversity of its contemporary art collection, wherein patients, visitors, and caregivers alike can find themselves represented in the art. Derrick Adams’s paintings, which are about recognizing and respecting individual expression, directly address representation and visibility as conduits to empathy.


Derrick Adams: LOOKS was jointly organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Clinic, marking the centennial of Cleveland Clinic.

This exhibition is supported in part by Cleveland Clinic.

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, Dr. Ben H. and Julia Brouhard, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, Michael Frank in memory of Patricia Snyder, the Sam J. Frankino Foundation, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, Anne H. Weil, and the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art.