New 93-foot mural, with references to Gee’s Clippers and Coffee Makes You Black, coming to Milwaukee Art Museum

Artist Derrick Adams in his Brooklyn studio. (Photo courtesy of Derrick Adams Studio.)

Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams will install a 93-foot mural on the Milwaukee Art Museum’s east end featuring references to important sites of Black culture in the city.

Adams’ installation is inspired by Victor Hugo Green’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a traveler’s guide for Black Americans during the Jim Crow era, and recognizes the rituals of everyday Black life and leisure.

The wall mural, “Our Time Together,” will include nods to Milwaukee businesses Gee’s Clippers and Coffee Makes You Black and the Wisconsin Black Historical Society. It will also include vernacular photographs from the civil rights movement.

The mural and a sculptural installation will be unveiled Oct. 29 at MAM.

“In ‘Our Time Together,’ I highlight Milwaukee by representing commercial and social spaces known within the Black community,” said Adams. “These dwellings, and those who occupy them, are essential to the cultural, political and creative growth of American society, which is then spread out to a global audience. The installation reflects my respect and admiration for the perseverance of Black Americans in their pursuit of happiness and speaks to transformation, belonging and normalcy.”

Adams visited Milwaukee in 2018 and 2019 to explore sites of importance in the Black community and met with Black artists and business owners, researched places listed in the Green Book, and viewed an archive of civil rights-era photographs from local newspapers.

“Through his monumental wall mural and sculptural installation, Adams underlines the importance of commemorating—and archiving—ordinary daily activities as central to shaping community and collective identity,” said Lisa Sutcliffe, Herzfeld curator of photography and media arts at MAM. “We’re honored to share and support this site-specific commission, which celebrates Black-owned businesses and culture, and asks important questions about the role of media and visual imagery in the construction of identity and cultural value.”

“Our Time Together” will be on view through 2024. It’s the first in the MAM’s On Site series to activate the museum’s east end. The series, which began in 2001, features new works from contemporary artists that respond to a specific location within the museum. Artists previously featured in the series include Chakaia Booker, Liam Gillick and Andrea Zittel.

MAM recognized the support of philanthropists Donna and Donald Baumgartner, Murph Burke, Joel and Caran Quadracci, and Sue and Bud Selig, who are MAM’s 2021 “Visionaries,” its top individual giving level.

Bader Philanthropies and MAM’s Contemporary Art Society are presenting sponsors of “Our Time Together”; the Herzfeld Foundation is a supporting sponsor.

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