John Edmonds: One

7 Mar-4 May 2024
PV 7 Mar 2024, 6-8pm

Maximillian William
London W1W 8HJ


Maximillian William is pleased to present John Edmonds’ first solo exhibition in London. Titled One, the exhibition unites Edmonds’ work in Black and white from several bodies of work made between 2016–2022. 
In Edmonds’ work, photography’s relationship to truth is repeatedly questioned. Describing his images as ‘quasi-documents’, the artist works almost obsessively with a number of models. These figures and friends – who become close to muses – hold, caress, and measure themselves against African sculptures in a search for subjectivity that is humanising, vulnerable and tender. The human body’s relationship with sculpture in Edmonds’ images can at times be erotic, other times playful. His subjects’ ambivalent expressions seem to consider the value of these objects, and in doing so, raise questions over the roles that individuals, institutions and photography play in assigning meaning and authenticity. 
While Edmonds has worked extensively in large-format colour photography, this exhibition gathers work made in monochrome. Back with Scales and Shadows acts as a genesis point for the artist’s examination of Black and white photography specifically as its own medium, where the artist works with Black as both form and content. In Edmonds’ hands, African sculpture signifies both traditional cultural heritage and diasporic memory, and thus becomes a way to explore displacement and dispossession. The multiplicity of his subjects and ways of working – across formats and scales, colour and medium – have enabled this exhibition to be an opportunity to look back at his work as a single body. The exhibition’s title, One, notes this, while also gesturing toward new meanings and beginnings. In 2020, on a trip to Ghana, Edmonds was initiated into the Akan religion, which, much like his work, was both a moment of rebirth and a confirmation of a centuries-deep cultural bond. 
For Edmonds, the photograph can become an act of transmission, where the image becomes a threshold between narrative and reality. He is endlessly interested in what he terms ‘photography’s ability to assign life’, and in its ability therefore to move beyond representation towards animating visions of the male gaze. Edmonds’ signature Du-Rags series, one of which is on view here, concentrates on hoods and headpieces as symbols of Black identity, and frames them and their wearers as majestic, spiritual and delicate. Echoed by the silk of their surfaces, these works counter often-repeated stereotypes of Black masculinity, and signal towards new images of identity and power. 

John Edmonds (b. 1989) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has been the subject of solo and two-person exhibitions at Cincinnati Art Museum (2022); Foam, Amsterdam (2022); and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2020–2021). Recent group exhibitions include Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility, curated by Ashley James, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York (2023); The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century, Baltimore Museum of Art (2023); Black Modernism – Africa and the Avantgarde, Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso Münster (2022); The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2021); Ex-Africa: African Presences in Contemporary Art, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris (2021); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019); and God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin, curated by Hilton Als, David Zwirner, New York (2019). His work is included in public collections including MoMA, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Guggenheim, all New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Edmonds is the recipient of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2021, the UOVO Prize 2021, and is a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grantee for 2023-2024.