Derek Fordjour (b. 1974, Memphis, Tennessee) makes paintings, sculptures, and installations whose exuberant visual materiality gives rise to portraits and other multilayered compositions. Born of both broad sociological vision and a keen awareness of the body’s vulnerability, Fordjour’s tableaux are filled with athletes, performers, and others who play key roles in cultural rituals and communal rites of passage. In his paintings, Fordjour methodically constructs the ground of each composition through a collage-based process involving cardboard, newspaper, and other materials and pigments. The varied and textural surfaces that emerge are as complex—and physically engaging—as the dynamic subjects that Fordjour inscribes on top, within, and through them. His ability to grapple with many strata of artmaking on physical, conceptual, and straightforwardly human terms alike allows his project to communicate the widest possible array of emotions, from celebration and ecstasy to melancholy and lamentation. This, in turn, allows Fordjour to connect to audiences inside and outside of traditional art venues.
In 2020, Derek Fordjour was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. In 2018, commissions for the Whitney Museum of American Art Billboard Project and the Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts & Design program resulted in significant public projects in New York. Recent group exhibitions include 100 Drawings from Now, The Drawing Center, New York (2020); Plumb Line, California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2019); and Reclamation!, Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia (2019). His work is in the public collections of institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Fordjour was the Spring 2020 Alex Katz Chair in Painting at The Cooper Union, New York, and currently serves as a Core Critic at the Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut. He lives and works in New York.