In the fall of 2013, artist and actor Edward Akrout was left immobilised due to a back injury. Despite paralysing pain, the vibrance and life of New York city pulled Akrout from his isolation, leading him to see his surroundings and its individuals with a new and pure vividness. This renewed sensitivity to the world around Akrout is captured in his mixed media compositions which exist somewhere between landscapes and the mood in which one sees them. They pull the viewer into scenes where distinctive patterns of light, half-obscured figures and abstract linework come together to reproduce the artist’s overwhelming and immediate sensory rush, each serving as a small piece in Akrout’s narrative journey from injury to health.
From the raw, elongated spinal shapes in Vertebral Negotiation to the ambivalent bursts of joy amidst the chaos of Funky Functional Dysfunction, Akrout’s collection bears witness to his first sight of this irresistible energy of New York’s streets after returning from a state of sensory deprivation to the wild, growing intensity of one of the most dynamic places on earth. Such a state brings out the most essential features of human beings. Akrout’s portraits contain singular exposures to the powerful personalities which inhabit this setting; W 77th Cougar contains an encounter with a divorcee using just a few elegantly placed lines, the ink set with just enough movement and colour to reflect the brisk urban setting of the Upper West side.
The acuteness with which Akrout has seen and reconstructed these characters is best demonstrated in the ultraminimalism of work like Rich Kid, where the conceited expression and a hint at the standard dress code of a certain species of New York Trust Fund baby is refined to just a few touches. Similarly, the broad and layered strokes of Inner Truth reveal the forms that emerge in the mind’s eye during the inward focus of meditation; an impression of mental movement and awareness of the self during one’s own stillness.
There are concurrent stories in Akrout’s recent work, one detailing his recovery and reintegration into a dense and overpowering physical environment, and another in which he outlines the various ways in which he has coped with the transition. Easy Dreams has you staring through the artist’s pleasant mental haze, where indistinct forms emerge from pastel shades to ‘lift and carry you throughout your day’. Here the artist finds comfort in gliding through the kinesis of this buzzing alien world. In another piece, Toxic Expectations, Akrout finds himself struggling to resist and retain his identity as an artist upon coming back to a place which is both stimulating and abrasive, where one can be deeply touched by moments with people and environment, but also swept along by their continual motion.
Akrout’s collection chronicles his exposure to a place where the impressions of people, character of place, and intensity of experience can root themselves so deeply in your imagination that there is a risk of allowing them to impress themselves on you.