Awol Erizku More From Beyoncé’s Pregnant Photographer


LOS ANGELES – Right, Awol Erizku She may be best known for her blessed photo of a pregnant Beyoncé in 2017. most liked Post in Instagram’s history. And Erizku has taken many other memorable photos of celebrities, including the young inaugural poet. Amanda Gorman For the cover of Time and the “Black Panther” actor Michael B. Jordan for GQ.

But in a recent interview at his sprawling studio in Downtown Los Angeles, Erizku, 33, as an Ethiopian pianist, wears Doc Martin boots on his feet and a floppy hat in his dreadlocks. Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou He said that he first saw himself as an artist, and also worked in painting, sculpture and video installations.

“This is something I insist on,” he said. “I’m not a hired photographer.”

Erizku’s desire to bring his work to the attention of the wider art world is part of what fueled the desire of Antwaun Sargent, director and curator at Gagosian, to give him the gallery’s Park Avenue space for a show opening March 10.

“Awol is one of the Black pioneer photographers who said that boundaries do not apply to facts or the conditions in which we make images,” Sargent said. “This is a refreshing perspective to have, especially when it comes to the extremely white history of photography.”

“How are we going to ignore this as the art world?” Sargent continued. “You have photographers in Lagos, London, Johannesburg, New York, and Los Angeles who make images that defy easy categorization and highlight Black desire, Black beauty, and the Black community. This is important to me.”

Erizku’s exhibition, “Memories of a Lost Sphinx” places six lightbox photographs in a black painted interior, as well as a mixed-media sculpture that reinvigorates the world. Great Sphinx of Giza As a mix of Egyptian, Greek and Asian influences. There is also a golden spinning disco ball, “Nefertiti – Miles Davis, In the form of an Egyptian queen.

“I’m breaking down the mythological components that make up the Sphinx,” Erizku said. “It’s important to me to create images of black people who are confident, strong, downright gorgeous.”

Sargent has known Erizku since she interviewed him. complicated magazine about the “One Way Up” exhibition in 2014. Erizku said she felt an immediate comfort with him, that “it’s not the first time I have to explain the job”.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in the South Bronx – Erizku describes herself as “coming from projects” – she got into trouble in middle school and said that “art was the only way out for me.”

As a sketcher and doodler, he attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, began doing medical illustrations, and acquired a camera at Cooper Union, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2010.

In his third year at Cooper Union, Erizku riffed on Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and created the “Girl with a Bamboo Earring” photograph, which featured a Black woman with a large heart-shaped hoop earring that caught the public’s attention. print sold at Phillips auction house for $52,500 in 2017).

From there, he went to Yale, where he worked with the photographer. Gregory Crewdson and earned his MFA in 2014. Erizku was particularly inspired by the work of artists such as Richard Prince, Jeff Wall, Roe Ethridge, Marcel Duchamp, and David Hammons who “work outside the margins.”

However, she has mastered the world of social media by adopting Instagram as her own gallery, selectively opening her post for public viewing at certain hours.

He took part in a group exhibition at the Flag Art Foundation in 2012 and later participated in two solo exhibitions at the now closed Hasted Kraeutler gallery in Chelsea. Ben Brown in London and then Hong Kong Night Gallery in Los Angeles. Currently not represented.

“The work has an aesthetic appeal – you want to look at it,” said collector Glenn Fuhrman, Flag founder and longtime supporter of Erizku’s work. “But there is always so much more going on under the surface.”

Some members of the art world have already noticed. Public Art FundIn 2017, he showed off his work on Wi-Fi kiosks in five counties as part of Erizku’s “Trade Break” exhibition.

In 2019, curator Allison M. Glenn included Erizku in her exhibition “small talkThe Ark is at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. “The strength of its app is that it has multiple points of accessibility for many different people,” Glenn said. “It relies on recognizable symbols and replaces them. This is art history. That was the job of painting.”

Last year, the Public Art Fund featured 13 photos Erizku took at bus stops in New York City and Chicago.New Visions for IrisIt included a still life for mass incarceration and a portrait of Michael Brown Sr.

“From old masters to contemporary images of the present, it’s part of an art history conversation,” said Daniel S. Palmer, the fund’s curator.

Sargent said the Gagos exhibit makes sense, in part because it broadens the idea of ​​what Black art can be at a time when Black portraiture has become the market rage.

“The art world has flattened the way Blackness works,” Sargent said. While he states that figurative work is valid, “Making exhibitions like this helps to go beyond overemphasizing figurative painting”.

He added that “beyond some fashion concepts of the black figure” is a way to continue a conversation.

Sargent pointed to the long-standing recognition of Black photographers such as Anthony Barboza and Ming Smith, and 1960s Kamoinge groupespecially lately in Whitney. “We need to use every strategy to ensure our images are seen and appreciated,” he said, “because frankly, the art world just didn’t care.”

Showing Erizku in Gagos space Park and 75 – a showcase that can be seen from the street – gives the exhibition significant accessibility. “With more Black artists on display than ever before, there is still a problem with museums and galleries attracting these audiences to see the work of members of their communities,” he said. “There are many barriers to entry into the art world.”

Erizku often includes wildlife in his photos – he photographed the hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle with a horse, Michael B. Jordan with a hawk and a wolf; Gorman with a bird (now sings in a cage by the window in Erizku’s workshop). He said he was inspired by Joseph Beuys’ radical 1974 performance of “I love America and America likes me,” in which the German artist spent a week in his gallery fenced in with a live coyote.

The cost of Erizku’s work is on the low end for a large gallerist like Gagosian, with pieces selling for around $40,000 to $60,000. But Sargent said it’s critical that blue-chip galleries showcase new perspectives. “While we’re being honest when we say we want to make sure all voices are represented in the art world, we have to be serious about providing platforms for artists who think about rendering in ways that differ from traditional concepts. said Sargent.

Erizku has bypassed the gatekeepers to some extent, given that she’s been running her own shows on social media for years. The artist said his primary interest was to be able to convey and elevate black images. actress Viola Davisafrican masks, nail salon hands, Ethiopian sex workers or basketball player Kevin Durant.

“I want to be remembered for the Black imagination to expand the boundaries of Black art,” said Erizku.


Awol Erizku: Memories of a Lost Sphinx

March 10 – April 16, Gagosian Park & ​​75, 821 Park Avenue, Manhattan. 212-796-1228; gagosian.com.



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