COOPERMADE: Portraits of Imagination

portraits of imagination

Awol Erizku 
Deep Shadow (Michael Brown Sr.), 2020 
Roosevelt Ave. between 51st St. & 50th St., Queens 
Courtesy the artist 

Photo: Nicholas Knight, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY. 
Photographic work as a part of Awol Erizku: New Visions for Iris, an exhibition on 350 JCDecaux bus shelter displays across New York City and Chicago, February 24 to June 20, 2021. 

Awol Erizku A’10 was born in Gondar, Ethiopia, grew up in the Bronx, and now lives in Los Angeles. He’s absorbed that global trajectory and taken in a world of other influences too: David Hammons, birds, the intergalactic jazz of Sun Ra, Renaissance portraiture, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. His vibrant photographs, not surprisingly, are highly saturated with both color and meaning.  

For his recent series, New Visions for Iris, he created a still life showing the continent of Africa as a cake frosted in green, black, and red and surrounded with a riot of orchids and other flowers. Another photo for the series, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund and exhibited on bus stops around New York and Chicago, showed prison footwear, prayer beads, and the Quran, a piece about mass incarceration and the spiritual hopes of many behind bars.  

The photographer, who gained popular acclaim for his photograph of a pregnant Beyoncé bedecked in flowers, continues to make arresting portraits of renowned African Americans that underscore the beauty and creativity of Black culture, including a cover for Time showing Amanda Gorman, the U.S.'s first National Youth Poet Laureate, holding a caged bird in front of a rosy-hued nebula.   


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  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

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