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LA artists Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst debut at the Whitney Biennial in New York

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp®

A portrait of Zackary Drucker, from the Relationship series, 2008–2013. Zackary Drucker/Rhys Ernst, Courtesy Luis De Jesus Gallery

Just last month, the Whitney Biennial opened in New York City. It's one of the nation's oldest regular museum exhibitions for new, emerging artists. Artists like Georgia O'Keefe and Jeff Koons have gotten their starts in part thanks to the Whitney Biennial.

This year, Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst — a transgender LA couple — make their Whitney debut. Ernst has a background in filmmaking, while Drucker has worked in fine art for years. They've started collaborating in recent years, making photo and video projects.

Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson talked with Drucker and Ernst at their Cypress Park studio.

"I guess we found out in May," said Drucker, about discovering that she and Ernst would be featured in Biennial. "It was right around my birthday, and I think we probably celebrated with champagne that night."

Then, she called her mom.

"She reminded me that I told her — maybe five, ten years ago — that my ultimate goal into the Whitney Biennial by the time I was 30, and I'm 30," said Drucker. "I'm gonna have to create new goals now."

"Relationship" is the title of one of the three projects they brought to the Biennial. Through the series of photographs, you see Drucker and Ernst's relationship develop in real time.

"We met in the 2008, sort of in the very beginning our transitions," said Drucker. "For me, from male to female, and for Rhys from female to male. I got a new camera pretty soon after we met, it was just a digital point and shoot Leica, and began to exhaustively document our relationship together."

RELATED: LA artists Heather Cassils and Zackary Drucker defy gender norms 

Drucker and Ernst have both lived in Los Angeles for over five years now. Their art isn't just informed by the city, they said, Los Angeles makes their work possible. "There's more of a community of artists," said Drucker. 

"And I think, too, the film industry's infrastructure here creates kind of a really interesting subtext our underbelly," Ernst added. 

The couple lived in New York before moving to L.A. and both agree the city just wasn't as conducive to their work.

"Before I moved out here, I worked doing freelance TV work for a while," said Ernst. "And just the idea of driving a little cube truck and having nowhere to park. And then there's a four story walk up, and everybody's cranky, and it's freezing outside... it's so much harder to make work in that kind of environment."

 Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst will be being featured at the Whitney Biennial in New York now through the end of May. 

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