FOAM Paul Huf Award 2021

Winner John Edmonds

31 years, male, United State

John Edmonds (b. 1989) is an American artist and photographer who first came to public recognition with his intimate portraits of lovers, close friends and strangers. He earned his MFA in Photography from Yale University and his BFA at the Corcoran School of Arts & Design. His work explores themes of identity, community and desire. Noted for his highly formalist photographs in which he focuses on the performative gestures and self-fashioning of young black men on the streets of America, his work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Columbus Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, SFMoMA, and the Brooklyn Museum. In 2018, TIME Magazine listed his debut monograph, Higher, as one of the top 25 Photobooks of the year. Recent exhibitions include Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall at the Brooklyn Museum, Studio Photography at Simon Lee Gallery, God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin at David Zwirner and Family Pictures at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Residencies include: the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME; Light Work, Syracuse, NY; and the Banff Centre, Banff, AB. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and is on faculty at Yale University and the School of Visual Arts, NY. In 2019, he was included in the 79th Whitney Biennial. Edmonds is represented by Company Gallery.

Artist statement
I use photography as a form of storytelling through which the portrait and still life become metaphors. Through the interplay of the human subject and sculpture, I address issues of diaspora and displacement- where do these wooden objects come from and why are they here now? What do they mean in the world in which they exist dispossessed from their original contexts? What is real? What does it mean to be authentic? What does it mean to belong? It is through these objects and through the Black human subject that I ask questions around my place, our place. And through those questions, I create more space- the studio becomes a space that can be carved out in an apartment, in a traditional studio or the beaux arts court of a museum. Identity is not only a question of body but also a question of place and belonging and needing and wanting and desiring to touch, to feel, to be seen. Scale is important. In the presentation of my work, I vary scale and dimensions to disrupt the seriality and uniformity of photography. I want the viewer to experience each work as a type of sculpture itself- a picture plane with space and dimension where bodies are seen and revered.

Project information: A sidelong Glance
Picking up where my previous body of work left off, A Sidelong Glance continues my exploration of the African art object as icon. Using photography to “carve out space”, I create make-shift studios in public and private settings juxtaposing Black models with African art objects I have collected from African art dealers throughout New York. I am interested in expanding the tradition of studio portraiture and foregrounding the Black human subject as the source of inspiration. The title, borrowed from the art historian Krista Thompson’s essay of the same name, considers the heavy scholarship on African art while reimagining the presence of Africa in the west, today.

Project Information: Tribe
In Tribe, I use portraiture and still life to meditate on identity, community and belonging. The objects in this are all speculated to be inauthentic through an academic standpoint. Yet, what interest me beyond how realness and authenticity is dictated, is the question around displacement and dispossession. In Tribe, I am interested in photography’s ability to repossess, to reclaim, to love and to create new truths. The body becomes both object and subject of intrigue and desire.