Bodies and landscapes have long been the stuff of art, anchoring fantasies both exotic and idealizing. David Alekhuogie's to live & die in LA explores the body as a landscape, unsettling coded representations of urban bodies and revealing their deeply contested territory.
Sagging, with its brief history as a style associated with hip hop, gang culture, and black male masculinity, has been politicized and at times criminalized as a pretext for racist persecution. In the Pull-Up series, close-up photographs of the waist area become landscape inspired compositions: bands of color formed by shirt, underwear, and low-slung pants. Initially shot in the studio and variously obfuscated, these images are then taken out into the city, where the flora and famed light of Los Angeles enter the frame. Red berries appear in the foreground of one image, echoing the red athletic shorts at the bottom of the photograph. Shadows trace blurry "drawings" over the rephotographed surface, further distorting our perception. And the contentious saggy pants merge with nature—protective camouflage for the black body within.
Alekhuogie’s photographs are ultimately portraits of his hometown of Los Angeles, embodying its deepest contradictions. The L.A. mythologized in the swaggering yet vulnerable rhymes of the late rapper 2Pac (who helped popularize the saggy pant look)—an urban jungle where people fear for their lives, and a place full of dreams and make believe. Here today, gone tomorrow.
David Alekhuogie (b. 1985, Los Angeles, CA; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) received his MFA from Yale University and post-bac BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Alekhuogie’s multi-disciplinary art practice is centered around photography and examines the dialectical relationships between politics, race, gender, media, and power. He has had solo exhibitions at Skibum MacArthur (2017) and at the Chicago Artist Coalition (2016). Alekhougie has participated in group shows at The High Museum (2017), Fraenkel Gallery (2015), and Regen Projects (2015). His work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Timeout, Chicago, Vice, and The Los Angeles Times. Alekhuogie’s solo exhibition Gravity will be on view at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery from February 14 to April 14, 2019.