Awol Erizku, Documenting Reality

He’s no longer an artist by title, but appears to be a sensation –something altogether bigger than himself, yet still tangible; he’s the art world’s new “it” boy. A lot to live up to, no doubt; but, no worries, he’s up for the challenge. Ready to conquer conceptions and rattle preconceived notions, Awol Erizku, tired of all the art-talk, builds his own world, photo by photo.

Visualizing the day when he can give back to his childhood stomping grounds, the Bronx: Erizku represents his barrio. Not only about race and culture in America, his work houses sensationalistic nuances; unflinching, he depicts optimism with exhibition titles like, “The Only Way is Up.” He gives back, alright; positive vibes in motion.

His photos dictate his reality, a reality that paints a new picture –a picture that posits a true sense of black lives matter. No longer just hashtags, his art and readymades protest when he cannot be physically present at rallies and gatherings. He, himself, then becomes a demonstration. Art becomes life becomes protest. It’s what art should be about –Erizku, ahead of the game.

Awol Erizku

Portraits like paintings, Erizku has set his sights on transforming ideas about photography and black beauty. Molding postures like bourgeoning flowers, capturing pain like existentialism, emphasizing faces like animal spirits. More than just asking questions about race, he’s proposing an evolution of exposure. Watch him expose you to a world culture. Watch him build an emporium of non-white and non-colonized beauty.

There’s a glorifying of sorts. Indicating a majestic past of African proportion –one that should be not forgotten, Erizku illustrates warriors alongside queens. The royal blue is a major clue. Erizku, precise and with serious purpose – further highlights his subjects by contrasting most of them with dark backgrounds or the contrary, bright, bold primary colors. He defies standards of beauty and appears to be saying wake up, witness the revolution.

Taking classic poses and making them modern, Erizku plays with time. He interrupts philosophies with new school flair. By reshuffling art history to make a statement about race and gender, disfranchising certain images that archetypally belong to certain groups and refusing categorization, he demands a reevaluation of our eyes and hearts. Smashing ideas like statues, Erizku is serious about his vision.

Serendipity is a collection of film and photography further demonstrating his knack for distributing art through a modern lens. His laboratory, equally as post-modern, sits beneath a flower shop in SoHo where his visions sprout up and reach for sky.

Awol Erizku - Serendipity

He also makes mixtapes on Soundcloud. No stone is left unturned in Erizku’s world. He really is owning that title, the “it” boy of the art world. As he once said to viewers at the MOMA show in New York, “Expect to open [their] minds a little more. Be cognizant of what the artist requests and seek it out.”

Hey art world, be prepared for more expansion and explosion. Erizku isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Awol Erizku


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

Jacklyn Janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, & female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

12 thoughts on “Awol Erizku, Documenting Reality

  1. Ha, good question, Heather!Mum, well, to take this photo, I used a special technique where I stood on my tiptoes and backed up until the glass shelf opposite the mirror pressed into my shoulder blades.

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