The premiere installment of Awol Erizku’s Duchamp Detox Clinic, a roving gallery space the 27-year old L.A.-based artist created for himself and his emerging peers, comprises layers of assembled found materials: polyurethane sheets and basketball nets that have been spray-painted, covered in house paint, and then spray-painted again, and an out-of-commission Porsche 914 salvaged from the Palm Springs desert and embedded with live and plastic plants. A Soundcloud mixtape, mixed by Erizku and DJ Bradley Soileau, provides a sonic component: it opens with that familiar riff from The Destroyers’ “Bad to the Bone,” and continues on to NWA, Kendrick Lamar, and a Drake track overlaid with an interview with founding West Side Crips member Stanley “Tookie” Williams.
“Bad II the Bone,” which opens on Saturday in a Downtown L.A. office and backpack manufacturing complex (in collaboration with Night Gallery), is a multimedia portrait of the West Coast. In the year since Erizku moved here from his native New York, the city has made an apparent impact on his work. The painted polyurethane combines the vernacular of gang culture and the makeshift plastic homes that line the sidewalks of nearby Skid Row, while the Porsche, overflowing with plastic fauna, evokes the sense of a culture centered on both the automobile and artifice. They are also nods to the artist David Hammons, whose voice also features on the mixtape, and whose own commentary on Duchamp’s legacy in the art world inspired the name of this itinerant detox clinic. (“He and John Outterbridge once said that nowadays artists just have to mention Duchamp, then just go straight to the bank,” Erizku explains.) Erizku’s work overtly follows in the footsteps of the older artist, who came to Los Angeles in the 1960s, and like Erizku, employed found objects as material references to black culture a central theme of his work. “He is to me what Duchamp was and is to him,” says Erizku. “Someone to look up to.”
Erizku’s specialty has become combining seemingly disparate genres and materials into new hybrid cultural entities, from so-called high art and street art to paint and Porsches, expressed on digital outlets like Soundcloud and Instagram as often as in real life. He started making such readymades—found objects presented as art, a term coined by Duchamp himself—during his M.F.A. at Yale, with slicker objects (gold-plated basketball nets, for example, stacked vertically in reference to Donald Judd) but his West coast works have a grittier tone that actually feel more vibrant in their honesty. It's just ironic that he found this honesty in LA.