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Young Photographer Awol Erizku Hates Being Labeled ‘Urban’

You can call Awol Erizku’s art history-inflected photographs whatever you want — just don’t call them “urban.” “I hate when people label my work urban,” he says. “Just because it’s African American subjects or people of color it’s not urban.”

His recent Renaissance-inspired portraits at Hasted Kraeutler replace the stiff aristocrats of centuries past with young New Yorkers wearing Louis Vuitton, Versace, and sometimes nothing at all. The pieces are poised and precisely lit while the subjects stand alone against a black background, boldly staring directly into the camera. Works like “Girl with a Bamboo Earring,” “Boy Holding Grapes,” and “Lady with a Pitbull” take direct inspiration from Vermeer, Caravaggio, and Da Vinci.

“Girl with the Louis Vuitton Scarf”, Awol Erizku

In the past two years, the 24-year-old photographer has graduated from Cooper Union, been accepted to Yale’s MFA program, and been picked up by a Chelsea gallery. His portraits of New York’s young black creative elite have made an impression on big players in the industry (Glenn Fuhrman of the FLAG Art Foundation was an early champion of his work), and this month he has two solo shows in New York — one at Hasted Kraeutler closing July 20 and the other at Rivington Design House Gallery opening July 19.

Erizku was born in Ethiopia, but grew up in the Bronx. He started taking photographs seriously in college after an internship with David LaChappelle. In both his gallery work and on his very active Tumblr, Erikzu is working to insert a young black voice onto the white walls of the art world. “There are not that many colored people in the galleries that I went to or the museums that I went to,” he said. “I was just like, ‘when I become an artist I have to put my two cents in this world.’”

Source: Art Info

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