This fall, artist Awol Erizku makes his first solo exhibition at Sean Kelly with Delirium of Agony a show that examines the construction of cultural iconography through the lens of contemporary hip-hop, street culture, art history, sports, and entertainment. Occupying the entire gallery, the exhibition features paintings, neon installations, photographs, sculptures, and works on paper that draw intriguing lines between graphics, cultural symbolism, personal affinity and subtle cultural representations.
Throughout the gallery, the show makes much of the iconography of street culture. A series of basketball hoops are transformed into a pan-African flag; a coffin into a human-sized mouse trap; and an ancient Egyptian bust into a gleaming disco ball. Erizku transforms the linguistic conventions surrounding music, popular culture, and sports symbolism into images and sculptures that offer an alternative to the Western gaze. By remixing cultural signifiers, he weaves together different narratives that interrogate the canons of art history, philosophy, and linguistics, creating unexpected connections that highlight the artist’s interest in contranyms found within the hip-hop vernacular. A recurrent theme throughout Erizku’s practice is the questioning of Eurocentric standards of beauty and art historical tradition, to create work that represents a uniquely Afrocentric aesthetic, one the artist refers to as “Afro-Esotericism.”
The exhibition also includes a series of large-scale paintings featuring the insignia of popular sports teams. Erizku’s paintings are derived from the addition, removal, and obfuscation of logos associated with individuals found within street culture. Again, mixing visual emblems, tropes and metaphors from disparate cultures, such as ancient Egyptian manuscripts in which the original writing is removed, yet traces are left behind, in these works Erizku borrows his aesthetic from Los Angeles’ urban culture. As acclaimed writer, Doreen St. Félix, has observed, “as much as Erizku is drawn to creation, he is also thinking about obliteration as a means of reflection.” By creating a palimpsest of urban history and youth culture, he informs and shapes local identity.
The show closes October 28th.
– C. Rhinehart
Awol Erizku at Sean Kelly [Exhibition Site]