Derek Fordjour’s Art Stares Down Shared Fears and Vulnerabilities

A completed painting from Fordjour’s studio: Duet, 2020. Courtesy of Artist and Petzel, New York.

Artist Derek Fordjour creates work that prompts viewers to consider their gaze-- a trait present in his new show at Petzel Gallery titled, SELF MUST DIE. In this feature for Artnews, Andy Battaglia spoke with Fordjour about the latter’s thinking about Black death and precarity. The artist explains that he is more concerned with the process of excavating complex experiences of vulnerability, than merely representing Black figures in art. Combining these elements, Fordjour strikes a balance between attending to the morbidity that surrounds Black life, while maintaining a vibrancy.

“I wanted to create something that connected. To me, feeling vulnerable is something that everybody understands. Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to be you, or you don’t know what it’s like to be me—but we certainly know what it feels like to be vulnerable. It was a discovery for me to realize that this is what I’m talking about: being a human being and not feeling safe.” - Derek Fordjour