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.
Derek Fordjour has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Pond Society, Shanghai (2021) and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2020). He was commissioned in 2022 by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles to create Sonic Boom, a monumental artwork spanning over 5,400 square feet for its outdoor art series Building Art. In 2018, commissions for the Whitney Museum of American Art Billboard Project and the Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts & Design program resulted in major public projects in New York. In 2018, commissions for the Whitney Museum of American Art Billboard Project and the Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts & Design program resulted in major public projects in New York. Recent group exhibitions include The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2021); Present Generations: Creating the Scantland Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2021); and 100 Drawings from Now, The Drawing Center, New York (2020). His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; the Royal Collection, United Kingdom; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Fordjour served as the 2020 Alex Katz Chair of Painting at The Cooper Union, New York, and serves on the faculty at the Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut as a core critic. Fordjour lives and works in New York.