Awol Erizku Brings the Street Into the Gallery in “The Only Way Is Up”
From the Catalogue:
Awol Erizku’s luminescent Girl With A Bamboo Earring radiates intensity. The undeniable descendant of Johannes Vermeer’s famed Girl with a Pearl Earring, Erizku’s appropriated portrait is a formal declaration of beauty not only within the history of art, but culture at large. In restating Vermeer’s painting, Erizku participates in a larger phenomenon of contemporary black artists, such as Kerry James Marshall, Chris Ofili, and Kehinde Wiley, critically redressing the absence of people of color in the history of art. However, rather than seeking exact parity in representation within the realms of traditional fine art, Erizku pursues a form of image-making that transcends mediums and the closed conversations within the art world. Marrying popular culture and fine art with vibrant photographs and brilliant mixed-media installations, Erizku understands that for beauty to be recognized in a museum, it must first be recognized in culture at large. In discussing the work of his contemporary predecessors, Erizku noted, “The artists that came before me who are critiquing the system were and are only concerned about raising these issues and talking about them to other artists. As much as I find that interesting and necessary, it is far more important to me that the work is accessible to a larger audience—and that they come to see it. I want the conversation to be louder and amongst as many people as possible.”
—Courtesy of Phillips
Signature: Signed, numbered 2 in ink, printed title, date, and copyright notation on an artist's label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount. Number 2 from an edition of 5.
Nelson, 'Awol Erizku', Aperture: Vision & Justice, no. 223, summer 2016, p. 60
Khabeer, Muslim Cool: Race, Region, and Hip Hop in the United States, cover
Marshall and Donahue, Art-Centered Learning Across the Curriculum: Integrating Contemporary Art in the Secondary Classroom, cover
Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, New York
Distressed by the lack of representation for people of color in art history and museums and galleries, Awol Erizku aims to rectify this omission in his photographs, sculptures, and video installations, which are centered upon subjects of color. In his words, “There are not that many colored people in the galleries that I went to [growing up] or the museums that I went to. I was just like, when I become an artist I have to put my two cents in this world.” He does this in a critically acclaimed series of photographic portraits, re-crafting famous painted portraits by artists like Vermeer and Caravaggio by replacing their white subjects with contemporary black ones. By re-staging these and other iconic works of art, Erizku engages in critical discourse with the past, cracking open the canon with historically repressed voices.
American, b. 1988, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, based in Los Angeles, CA, United States