COMMENTARY

Awol Erizku, The Ethiopian Artist Behind Beyonce’s Pregnancy Shoot

Yes, yes, Beyonce is pregnant with twins BUT could we discuss the visuals of her announcement?! Awol Erizku is an American of Ethiopian origins, contemporary artist who lives and works in New York & Los Angeles. His primary media are Painting, Photography, Sculpture and Video installation. Erizku works with a wide variety of found materials

Roughly this time last year Awol Erizku had his first Solo exhibition reminiscent of the work he did with the Queen Bee titled Bad II the Bone Awol Erizku is an American of Ethiopian origins, contemporary artist who lives and works in New York & Los Angeles. His primary media are Painting, Photography, Sculpture and Video installation.  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.

1. He was born in Ethiopia.

Erizku was born in Ethiopia and raised in the Bronx. He is currently based in Los Angeles.

The artist was influenced by his hometown in his signature piece of a black hand holding a red rose, which is a tribute to a popular picture that can be found in nail salons across the country.

“The hand is this ubiquitous symbol I saw growing up,” he explained to Fader. “In the Bronx, all you see is liquor shops, barber shops, and nail salons.”

2. He is a Yale graduate.

Erizku graduated from Yale’s M.F.A program in 2014, and has since had his work exhibited in venues like The Museum of Modern Art.

 

3. He is also an artist and sculptor, and his Instagram is like a gallery.  

Erizku writes on his Facebook that his primary media is photography, sculpture and video installation using materials including basketball hoops, VHS tapes and textile. He has created mixtapes to pair with his shows, and has pieces inspired by Jay Z and Rihanna.

Erizku has said he treats his Instagram page “like a gallery.” In a 2015 interview with Vulture, he said, “I keep it private, and then from 9 to 5, Monday or Tuesday through Friday, like gallery hours, that’s when it’s public.”

A glance at the artist’s Instagram page may give déjà vu, as he previously posted a picture of the flower-filled red Porsche that Beyoncé sits atop in one of her maternity photos several weeks ago. The car was a part of his pop-up installation called “Ask the Dust” that was done in collaboration with floral designer Sarah Lineberger.
Beyoncé isn’t the only celebrity Erizku has photographed. He has also collaborated with Viola Davis for The New Yorker and rapper ASAP Rocky.

5. He has history with ‘The Carters.’

This isn’t the first time Erizku has had the pleasure of photographing Beyoncé. In 2014, he shot Beyoncé and Jay Z during their trip to the Louvre museum in Paris. At the time, he posted a picture of the power couple standing in front of the Mona Lisa. In the post, though, he replaced the iconic painting with his own work— titled the “Girl with the Bamboo Earring.”

 

 

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