Huffington Post recently released a list of 30 black artists under 40 who’ve been making waves in the contemporary art world. One artist in particular stood out—Awol Erizku, a Cooper Union grad who has been taking photographs that reverse the whitewashed nature of classical (and contemporary) painting.
I’ve seen a few parodies of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring—everything from the addition of a camera (implying the Girl is taking a quick selfie) to the replacement of the head wrap with a bath towel—but Awol Erizku’s photograph Girl with a Bamboo Earring isn’t parody. Rather, it uses mimesis—not to mention that “aha! I recognize this image” feeling—to subvert whiteness as a standard of beauty, and, as HuffPo writes, to “retroactively add diversity to the artistic cannon with style.”
Erizku has been blowing up on the internet with his restagings (Girl with the Louis Vuitton Scarf and Lady with a Pitbull are others). And at a time when a white girl is getting cast as an “African Queen” for a fashion editorial, Erizku’s work feels particularly necessary.