Ervin A. Johnson



April 6–30, 2017

"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. I felt guilty. I consider myself, for the most part, a conscious individual and so my silence became a burden. When the time came for me to be vocal with my peers I chose the path of cowardice. 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. Whether or not I was accepted was something I had and will always deal with. I had to come to terms with that before anything else.

"#InHonor is a series of photo-based mixed media portraits made to honor Blackness as it exists in its various forms. More specifically it speaks to the violence and destruction occurring across America, in the form of police brutality. The skin color is removed from each portrait and then aggressively renegotiated. Pigment stands in for an idea or preconceived notion about a particular type of human experience. That experience is culminated and summed up in a word: Black. Questions of tangibility and digital approximations of an entire race are raised. What does a digital approximation of skin color mean and what does it mean to physically remove it and reapply it? The faces are forever transformed, just as our world is with each loss of life.

"The work continues today and will continue as long as lives are lost from racism and police brutality. I shoot in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. I’m asking Black men and women to join me in protest. Contact me and join your voice with mine. Rest in power my fallen brothers and sisters."

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 the Embodied: Asserting Self exhibition series, which is generously supported by Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer.