Identifying and promoting emerging talent is central to The FLAG Art Foundation’s exhibition program and we are pleased to present Images of Venus from Wayne Lawrence’s Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera, curated by artist Awol Erizku, from October 5-December 14, 2013, on its 10th floor. Erizku previously exhibited in FLAG’s Art² (2011) and personal, political, mysterious (2013), and we are proud to now invite him as curator.
Wayne Lawrence’s The Orchard Beach series resonates with Erizku’s approach to portraiture. When discussing Lawrence’s work, Erizku notes, “it quotes both photography and painting and engages and leaves the spectator wanting to see more. The images are subtle yet confrontational; this aspect of the artist’s image making enables him to navigate two complementary axes-as a form of documentation and as a reference to classical portraiture.”
“Originally from St. Kitts, West Indies,” Lawrence states, “I immigrated to the United States almost 20 years ago, settling in Los Angeles, CA, where I worked as a commercial carpenter for five years. In my mid-twenties, while searching for new direction in my life, I discovered the autobiography of Gordon Parks, A Choice of Weapons, along with the work of Richard Avedon and Eli Reed at the local library. As an immigrant searching for my place within American society, I immediately identified parallels within Parks’s life story and my own journey. The inherent emotion in Reed and Avedon’s work was palpable, and I felt immediately that I, too, could master this new language of photography. For the first time I was faced with imagery that dealt with the human condition, and I committed to use photography as a tool for my own personal education and to confront long-standing ideas about race and class.
In 2002, while continuing my pursuit of photographic education in California, I received news that my older brother, David, had been murdered back home in St. Kitts. This tragedy marked a major turning point in my journey, and photography became an integral part of my healing process. With the realization that my life’s work, my survival, would require a heightened level of personal engagement, I gave up the isolation I had always felt in Los Angeles and relocated to the bustling streets and diverse culture of New York City. With a new sense of purpose, over the next six years I began focusing my lens on the only beach in New York’s Bronx, Orchard Beach.
Although the Bronx is considered one of the most diverse communities in America, its image has been largely defined by the urban blight that the city endured during the late 1960’s through the 1980’s when arson, drug addiction, and social neglect decimated many of its neighborhoods. Built in the 1930’s, Orchard Beach, or ‘Chocha Beach’ as it is commonly known, remains an oasis for generations of Bronx families but is stigmatized as one of the worst beaches in New York. My personal experience of Orchard Beach, however, has been one of the most fulfilling of my life, and I have strived over many years to create an honorable representation of the community there.
Orchard Beach consists of portraits of proud men and women with audacious attitude, loving couples, and families at play. In this work I am interested in challenging the stereotypes associated with working-class people by highlighting themes of community, cultural pride and the individuals’ quest for identity.”
Wayne Lawrence (b. 1974) is a documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Lawrence’s work represents a visual diary of his life’s journey and focuses on communities otherwise overlooked by mainstream media. His photographs have been exhibited at the Open Society Institute, New York, NY (2008); The African American Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA (2005); The Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York, NY (2005); The George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art (2005); among others. Lawrence has been the recipient of several awards, including The Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture (2013), The Aaron Siskind Foundation Fellowship (2013), and PDN’s 30 (2010). His work has been published by The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, TIME, The Sunday Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Mare, COLORS, Grazia, and Newsweek.
Lawrence’s first monograph, Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera, was released by Prestel Publishing in October 2013, and is the subject of an exhibition at The Bronx Museum of the Arts on view October 13, 2013-February 16, 2014.
Awol Erizku (b. 1988) is a conceptual artist based in New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA. Erizku works in several mediums, including photography, sculpture, and video installation. He also uses his personal Tumblr and other social media channels to generate content in and around his studio practice. Erizku received a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, NY, in 2010, and an MFA in Photography from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT, in 2014. Erizku has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions, including PopRally Presents Awol Erizku: Serendipity, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2015); The Only Way is Up, Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NY (2014); Thank You, Come Again!, Rivington Design House Gallery, New York, NY (2012); and Black & Gold, Hasted Kraeutler, New York, NY (2012). His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Cookie Gate, Ellis King Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (2015); Deep End: Yale MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition, Diane Rosenstein Fine Arts, Los Angeles (2014); personal, political, mysterious, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY (2013); among others. Alongside his artistic practice, Erizku has curated several exhibitions, including 13 Artists, Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT (2014); Deep End: Yale MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition, Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA (2014); and Images of Venus from Wayne Lawrence’s Orchard Beach: The Bronx Riviera, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY (2013). He has been the subject of reviews and articles in BLOUIN Artinfo, Vulture, i-DMagazine, Whitehot Magazine, Vogue, and Complex among others.