"Girl with a Blackberry" 2011, Awol Erizku

With a distinctive retro style and an interest in reinventing iconic images from art history, Awol Erizku creates eye-catching photographs. The young Ethiopian-born multi-media artist grew up in the Bronx and his work exhibits influences both from urban pop culture of the 90s as well as fine art from different eras. Erizku, who specializes in staged photography (and who will soon be working toward his MFA at Yale), has already made a name for himself by working with the likes of David LaChapelle and Lorna Simpson. His latest show is set for June 14 – July 20 at Hasted Kraeutler.

"Boy Holding Grapes" 2012, Awol Erizku

“I want to create substantial work that represents my culture in a positive light. I want to celebrate the elegance and the beauty of African American Men and women,” says Erizku about his work, which he describes as a search for cultural identity with a sense of humor. For these photographs, the artist is interested in getting to know each person’s personality, so that he can match them to a certain concept. He allows each subject to let their guard down so that the process can come naturally and the image is an honest one. For that reason, it’s fair to compare Erizku to the master painters he references. His method is like that of a portrait painter who wants to capture the person as much as the times the individual identifies with.

"Girl with a Bamboo Earing" 2009, Awol Erizku