UOVO Prize winner John Edmonds creates a unique text and image mural exploring the layered history of African art objects Edmonds design will be on view November at UOVO’s Brooklyn Facility
(Black PR Wire) NEW YORK, — UOVO unveiled the design for a major public art installation by John Edmonds, the inaugural winner of the Brooklyn Museum’s UOVO Prize for an emerging artist. The large-scale mural will measure 35 x 49 feet and feature the artwork entitled A Lesson In Looking With Reverence (2019). The work will be installed on the facade of the forthcoming UOVO: BROOKLYN art storage facility in Bush wick. It will be on view to the public starting November 15 through fall 2020. Edmonds is the first winner of the UOVO Prize, a new annual award for an emerging artist living or working in Brooklyn.
Edmonds has repurposed his photograph Whose Hands? (2019) as the visual centerpiece of the façade. The subject of the image is a figurative wooden sculpture of a mother and child, originating from the Baule people of the Ivory Coast. The artist first encountered the sculpture outside of the Museum of Modern Art on an African art dealer’s stand, its initial acquisition prompted by the artist’s interest in the work being symbolic of major themes in the art historical canon: maternity, life, death and sacrifice. In Edmonds’s photograph, the sculpture is gripped by a variety of hands, appearing to pull it in opposite directions. Shot in 2019, Whose Hands was shown for the first time at Company Gallery as part of the exhibition Between Pathos and Seduction. Beneath the image in A Lesson In Looking With Reverence, the artist has added notations from Susan M. Vogel’s 1997 book, Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. In addition to the external mural on the UOVO: BROOKLYN façade, the artist will produce a small publication with supplementary information containing over five-hundred footnotes about the Baule’s art and culture, including excerpts pulled from Alain-Michel Boyer’s Baule: Visions of Africa. The publication, published as a newsprint, will be available to the public from inside the UOVO: BROOKLYN lobby.
“A Lesson In Looking With Reverence is a research-based project and a meditation on the state of African art and conflicting nature of its acquisition,” John Edmonds said. “Susan M. Vogel’s Baule: African Art, Western Eyes has been a source that I have returned to repeatedly to understand my own positionality as an African-American artist looking at such layered material of the diaspora. Ultimately, I hope this work can exist as a threshold for museums and institutions to move forward with equity and repair. “
Edmonds’s solo exhibition will open at the Brooklyn Museum in May 2020 and will feature new and recent photographic works that combine portraiture and still lifes of Central and West African sculptures. Curated by Ashley James, former Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art, and Drew Sawyer, Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator, Photography, the exhibition will be the artist’s first solo museum show.
“We are thrilled to present John Edmonds’s striking and conceptually rich installation as part of the Brooklyn Museum’s UOVO Prize,” Ashley James said. “We look forward to the wide-ranging conversations sure to emerge from the community’s engagement with this public installation and Edmonds’s accompanying solo exhibition at the museum in the spring.”
Steven Guttman, UOVO Founder and Chairman, remarked “It is an honor to support John Edmonds’s groundbreaking work in conjunction with the Brooklyn Museum through the Prize’s multi-faceted approach. We look forward to installing this thought-provoking composition at UOVO: BROOKLYN, which we hope will engage the Bushwick community on multiple levels.”
Best known for his sensitive depictions of young Black men, Edmonds uses photography and video to create formal portraits and still lifes that challenge art historical precedents and center Black queer desire. He often uses a large-format camera to heighten the staging of his subjects and explore their sculptural potential, making reference to religious paintings and modernist photography. Highlighting markers of Black self-fashioning and community—hoodies, du-rags, and more recently, African sculptures—his formal photographs point to individual style and a shared visual language across time. Edmonds is included in the current group exhibition, Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall, on view at the Museum through December 8, 2019. The artist was also featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial.