The Brooklyn Museum has awarded its inaugural UOVO Prize for an emerging Brooklyn-based artist to the photographer John Edmonds. As part of the award, Edmonds will receive a solo exhibition at the museum next year, a large-scale public art installation at UOVO’s forthcoming Bushwick storage facility opening this fall, and a $25,000 unrestricted cash grant.
Edmonds is best known for his stylized studio portraits of young black people and still lifes that look to challenge and upend the traditional art historical canon by centering black and queer folk. His images are currently on view in multiple venues throughout New York, including the 2019 Whitney Biennial, a solo outing at Company gallery in the Lower East Side, and the Brooklyn Museum’s “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall.”
Among Edmond’s most widely circulated images is Tête de Femme, which was used as the lead image for a recently published op-ed in the New York Times. The image shows a young black woman with coiffed hair looking directly out at the viewer as she holds an African mask. Visually it recalls Man Ray’s 1926 Kiki with African Mask, showing a young white woman with her eyes closed resting on a surface as she holds a similar mask. Edmonds has inverted the dynamics of the image: the black woman stares back, the mask no longer a colonial object pillaged by white Europeans.
“We’re so pleased to offer the UOVO Prize to John Edmonds, an artist whose gorgeous photographs negotiating the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and spirituality have been captivating us over the past several years,” Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak said in a statement. The Brooklyn Museum show next year will be Edmond’s first solo museum exhibition and will be organized by two of the museum’s curators, Ashley James and Drew Sawyer.