UOVO: BROOKLYN Unveils Public Mural by John Edmonds

December 06, 2019

Prize winner John Edmonds creates a unique text and image mural exploring the layered history of African art objects

In November, 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 measures 35 x 49 feet and features the artwork entitled A Lesson In Looking With Reverence (2019). The work is installed on the façade of the forthcoming UOVO: BROOKLYN fine art storage facility in Bushwick. It will be on view to the public through fall 2020. 

A rendering of John Edmonds's "A Lesson in Looking With Reverence" at UOVO: BROOKLYN in Bushwick
A rendering of John Edmonds’s “A Lesson in Looking With Reverence” at UOVO: BROOKLYN in Bushwick

Edmonds is the first winner of the UOVO Prize, a new annual award developed to help promote an emerging artist’s career in the Brooklyn neighborhoods as our new facility is set to open soon in Bushwick. The newest location for UOVO will re-purpose the existing reinforced concrete structure specifically to suit the needs of fine art, design, fashion and archival collections. In an interview with Art Zealous, UOVO CEO Steve Novenstein cited Bushwick’s burgeoning reputation as the borough’s premier arts destination as a big consideration in choosing the neighborhood for its fourth fine arts facility. “Engaging with New York’s cultural community is a priority for us, so I think we are going to fit in very well in Bushwick,” he said. 

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 this thought-provoking composition at UOVO: BROOKLYN, which we hope will engage the Bushwick community on multiple levels.” 

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. 

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.“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. “

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