Awol Erizku (born 1988) is an Ethiopian-American contemporary artist who lives and works in New York City & Los Angeles. His primary media are painting, photography, sculpture and video installation. Erizku works with a wide variety of found materials.
Erizku was born in Ethiopia and raised in New York City’s South Bronx neighborhood. He cultivated an interest in photography at Cooper Union, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2010. He received an MFA from Yale’s Visual Arts program four years later. After college, he worked under photographers David LaChapelle, Lorna Simpson, Margaret Morton, and thristine Osinski. He did commercial as well as documentary photography for rap group A$AP Mob.
Erizku’s work asks questions about race within the context of art history. He is centrally concerned with blackness and how black artists are viewed and canonized. “I hate when people label my work urban,” he said in 2012. “Just because it’s African American subjects or people of color it’s not urban.”
“Honestly, I don’t see [my work] as just being about black culture; it’s about my culture, and I’m documenting my culture,” Erizku told Vulture. If we label everything as black or white or yellow or whatever, then it becomes this thing of, this belongs here, this belong there. There’s an aspect in my work that I want to be universal. I never go into my studio and say, ‘Well, this is strictly for this group, and I don’t want this group to get it.'” His blend of pop art, materialism and minimalism has made him one of the New York’s more buzzed-about young artists.