Friend to the site and Brooklyn, NY based artist Derrick Adams turned to fictional Hillman University and Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line for inspiration for his new sculptural installation and pop-up shop “Hillman U” at The Proposition Gallery opening this weekend in the Lower East Side.
For the uninitiated Hillman, a historic black college set in the American South, was the alma mater of three generations of African-Americans including Claire, Cliff, and later, Denise Huxtable. Hillman, in the 1980s and 1990s, “lived” on The Cosby Show and its spin-off A Different World.
In Bill Cosby’s imagination Hillman, ranked alongside Morehouse College and Howard University as a real and influential Historic Black College, was aspirational. Education at this institution was inspirational, fun and achievable. Adams’ “Hillman U” reimagines the school as a real institution with ephemera like buttons, pennants, fitted caps, and other apparel associated with university merchandise and marketing. Paired with Marcus Garvey, Adams, with designer and collaborator Michael Chuapoco, succeeds in bridging the fictional school with the real life influence of Jamaican Pan Africanist Garvey. Garveyism gained traction in the 1990s when Hillman flickered, for several seasons, on our TV screens. The decade, which saw economic growth under the two presidential terms of Bill Clinton, is stained as optimistic and is experiencing a comeback in popular media and styles in 2012.
“Garveyism reemerged in mainstream urban fashion in the 90′s with the introduction of black fashion companies like FUBU (For Us By Us), Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule, and Cross Colours,” Adams said in a press release. “These fashion labels made their impact in media culture alongside television programs such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Cosby Show and its spinoff A Different World.”
With “Hillman U” Adams combines the historical references of Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line as a fashion concept paired with Hillman and the interactive industrial design of Chuapoco , merging the fictional with real to create a fresh, surprising and colorful look at the school and mainstream fashion movements.
Adams’ show aligns with his recent performance, “The Channel“, at BAM where he brought elements of Sesame Street and Ice T’s “Colors” to life with collaborator Ramon Silva and an obscure black Muppet Roosevelt Franklin to life.
Hillman U opens at The Proposition tomorrow and runs through November 5. The full title of his show is “Hillman U: A Dream Deferred; A Dream Fulfilled”.