How Artist Awol Erizku Found Inspiration In His Favorite Songs

December 14th, 2016

These days, the conceptual artist Awol Erizku always starts his studio visits with a DJ set. Recently, in his downtown Los Angeles workspace, he stopped showing me the beginning stages of his abstract nail art paintings — featured in I Was Going To Call It Your Name But You Didn’t Let Me, a solo exhibition that debuted in early December during Art Basel Miami — and strolled over to his mixers. He intercut, what the musician and occasional art critic Greg Tate termed, “trap-beat rap” with drops from his friends: “You ain’t from the block. What the fuck you know about cuuulture?” enthused Uzi, his sometimes Bronx-bred studio hand, sounding like a characteristic Cardi B Instragram PSA.

In an emerging career once preoccupied primarily with photography, Erizku has since repositioned his focus to blending art with music. “Mixing is like art to me,” he said, standing before printed images he shot in 2013 of nude Ethiopian sex workers cast to look like black Venuses. “The sound has to follow the concept behind the work on display. There has to be a direct relationship between the sound and the visual.”

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