Art Literature

Artist Awol Erizku Just Published His First Disco-Infused, Afro-Esoteric Manifesto

Cameron Welch, Chase Hall, Ashley James, Antwaun Sargent, Antoine Gregory, and Awol Erizku. All images courtesy of BFA for Gucci.

This past Tuesday, family, friends, and art aficionados gathered at Gucci’s Wooster boutique in New York to celebrate the first major monograph from Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku, Mystic Parallax. At the launch, hosted by Gucci, Antwaun Sargent, and publisher Aperture, Erizku signed copies of the book for eager attendees as they admired featured photos of Michael B. Jordan and Beyoncé. 


Born in Gondar, Ethiopia, and raised in the Bronx, the artist’s cultural roots play a pivotal role in all of his work, as is apparent in Mystic Parallax, which reconceptualizes African American and African culture while nodding to spiritual traditions. Erizku himself refers to this contemporary version of history as “Afro-Esotericism.” 


“Although comprised of images, Mystic Parallax transcends the realm of a mere photography book,” says the artist. “It encompasses the essence of poetry, a diary chronicling my crystallized thoughts, a testament to the influence of the great artists I have studied under, and, lastly, a spiritual guide on how to command majestic animals.”

Hank Willis Thomas, Sanford Biggers, Awol Erizku, and Lyle Ashton Harris

The book not only includes a survey of 10 years of studio practice and colorful portraits of Black cultural icons, but also essays by acclaimed author and poet Ishmael Reed, curator Ashley James, and New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félix, as well as interviews with Erizku conducted by Urs Fischer and Antwaun Sargent

Michael Famighetti and Awol Erizku

“We wanted the book to honor the full scope of his vision, and show how, no matter the medium, he’s working with a consistent visual language—and building a uniquely powerful world of images and cultural references,” says Michael Famighetti, editor-in-chief of Aperture Magazine and editor of Mystic Parallax.

The 300-page matte black, hardcover book features a glittering Nefertiti disco ball sculpture on the front cover and bold, red text down its spine. And its contents are even more potent than its eye-catching exterior. “Remember,” explains Erizku, “Mystic Parallax is more than just a book; it is a manifesto for the new world.”