Awol Erizku at Nina Johnson Gallery

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A hand holding a rose, over and over again: this is the Warholian pose struck by artist Awol Erizku for his new exhibition at Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami. I Was Going To Call It Your Name, But You Didn’t Let Me contains a powerful statement on color, representation, and repetition, with 20 paintings of the disembodied hand occupying the gallery, and a music collage by the artist as the soundtrack.

Erizku first made waves when his “Girl with a Bamboo Earring” portrait—a re-imagined Vermeer with a woman from the Bronx—went viral in 2012. His portraits are stark and bursting with color, formally mixing classical elements with contemporary ones. For this series of paintings, Erizku is further exploring his interest in pop, in terms art historical, commercial, and musical.


Image courtesy of the artist and Nina Johnson Gallery.

Born in Addis Ababa and raised in the South Bronx, Erizku went the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, where he knew A$AP Ferg. He then went on to Cooper Union and the Yale MFA program. Young but already with exhibitions at MoMA, Studio Museum, and a number of high-profile galleries, Erizku lives and works between New York and Los Angeles, the latter providing the inspiration for this series of paintings at Nina Johnson.

The hand, with its colorful manicuring and soft grip of the rose, was appropriated from the signage of nail salons in Los Angeles. They float on OSB instead of canvas (plywood, essentially), referencing the material culture of the street rather than the space of the gallery. Each of them contains different streaks of paint, some with the rose blotted out, others with scrawled messages. They hang against a brilliantly red wall–an Erizku signature.

These paintings, as well as the sounds wafting through the exhibition, reflect not only Erizku’s broad interest in art history, but also the sights and sounds of place. Most resonant though is the scintillating focus on color, which Erizku employs in all its manifold meanings.

Awol Erizku: I Was Going To Call It Your Name, But You Didn’t Let Me
Through January 7, 2017
Nina Johnson Gallery
6315 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33150

Rob Goyanes

Rob Goyanes

Rob Goyanes is a writer from Miami, Florida, now living in New York City. He has work forthcoming in the Paris Review Daily and Interview Mag.