“I began #InHonor as a personal response to the killings of Black people across America. To be completely honest the work was born out of guilt. All of my friends had rallied up in arms to march for Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. I, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found…What real change would come of my presence as a young gay black man at a march in which half of my people don’t accept or acknowledge me? Still, though, I felt moved to do something.”
#InHonor is an ongoing series of photo-based mixed media portraits that honor Blackness in its many forms, while also acknowledging the violence and destruction taking place in America in the form of police brutality. After printing each portrait he has composed, Johnson uses various solvents to remove pigments from the print’s surface. He then reintroduces color to the image using acrylic paints and inks to further abstract the subject’s skin tone and facial features, challenging viewers to rethink preconceived notions of what skin color signifies within our society. Each larger-than-life portrait is an homage to each individual pictured, yet the symbolic violence of Johnson’s material interventions into each photograph cannot be ignored. The artist plans to continue his work on #InHonor for as long as lives are lost due to racism and police brutality.
Ervin A. Johnson was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric and subsequently completed his second bachelor’s degree at Columbia College Chicago in photography. Most recently, he graduated with his MFA in photography from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and has exhibited work from his #InHonor series at Arnika Dawkins Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.
#InHonor is part of Blue Sky Gallery’s Embodied: Asserting Self exhibition series. The artists included in this series bend the rules of photography to incorporate painting, collage, and bold manipulation of the image to explore the expression of body, self, and belonging. For details, see the Embodied website.
Blue Sky is pleased to present #InHonor as the 2016 Critical Mass Solo Exhibition Award in conjunction with Photolucida.