Galerie Lelong & Co., New York is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of new works in painting and installation by Tariku Shiferaw. The works on view will be from two of the artist's ongoing series, One of These Black Boys and Mata Semay, in which Shiferaw engages his practice of cultural space-making through a confrontation of exclusionary Eurocentric systems of epistemic erasure. Shiferaw's latest series, Mata Semay, Amharic for 'night skies,' proposes a new mythology that imagines how the night sky would exist if diasporic cultural contributions were considered in the global consciousness. Shiferaw's paintings reflect his ongoing commitment to process, with new works measuring over six feet and a selection of works with chiffon making their debut after years of experimentation with the textile. This exhibition coincides with the artist's debut museum solo exhibition, Making Space: One of These Black Boys, at the Southampton African American Museum, New York.
The smaller gallery space will be transformed into a continuous night sky painted on panels of unstretched canvas with 24 ceramic sculptures in the center. An audio component emerges out of these sculptures: a sonic constellation composed of sounds representative of the African diaspora. This installation, A Sign in Space (2023), is part of the Mata Semay series and is a continuation of the artist's exploration of large-scale installation following A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams (2022), which premiered at Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, New York last summer. Shiferaw's latest installation takes its title from Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics volume, a collection of linked short narratives of scientific theories on the inception and evolution of the universe. The story A Sign in Space chronicles the efforts of a primordial being to mark a spot in the vast expanse of the universe with a sign that denotes his presence.
In the main gallery, the works on view take on a dark-toned palette, with backgrounds of expressively painted deep blues and purples as a core component of their composition. In paintings from the Mata Semay series, these emotive backgrounds are punctuated by abstracted constellations and represent imagined versions of the night sky, evoking the mystical essence of the cosmos. In The Dreaming (2022), a large-scale painting from the series, Shiferaw juxtaposes this dream-like background with a repetitive grid pattern to address the futile concept of owning or controlling space.
In a selection of works from the One of These Black Boys series, a body of work addressing issues of systemic erasure, Shiferaw covers the canvas with mixed media including acrylic and iridescent film before shrouding them with layers of poly-chiffon. The layers of fabric fluctuate in opacity as the angle from which the work is viewed changes, centering the engagement of the viewer and prompting an inquiry into who is granted visibility in cultural spaces. As with all of the paintings in the One of These Black Boys series, the works are titled after songs from musical genres by artists of the African diaspora such as Hip-Hop, R&B, Reggae, Afrobeats, Blues, and Jazz, infusing the works with the cultural histories that these references carry.
Works by Shiferaw will on view in the travelling exhibition The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri from August 19, 2023–January 1, 2024; in the exhibition States of Becoming, organized by Independent Curators International and on view at the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County from September 14–December 9, 2023; and in the exhibition Spectrum: On Color & Contemporary Art on view at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), San Francisco, California from September 27, 2023–March 3, 2024.
Press release courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. New York.
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