Until October 21, 2023, Tariku Shiferaw takes over Galerie Lelong & Co. with “Marking Oneself in Dark Places“, his new solo exhibition featuring installations and paintings on canvas. The works presented in the gallery space are drawn from the contemporary artist’s two ongoing series, Mata Semay and One of these Black Boys. In a unique artistic practice, Tariku Shiferaw transforms the art gallery into an immense nocturnal space where creations as mysterious as they are dazzling take pride of place.
Tariku Shiferaw is a talented contemporary artist who owes his reputation to his practice of mark-making, which explores the metaphysical ideas of painting and societal structures.Born in 1983 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he grew up in Los Angeles before moving to New York, where he now practices his critical art.The artist’s formal language of geometric abstraction is based on strata of materials densely superimposed to create “marks“, gestures that question the creation of space and refer to the hierarchy of systems.
By confronting Eurocentric systems of epistemic erasure and exclusion, the Ethiopian artist engages his art in the creation of a new, immersive cultural space, plunging viewers into a dissonant universe that invites deep reflection on the ideas conveyed in his works. In his latest series, Mata Semay (Amharic for “night sky” in French), Tariku Shiferaw depicts a mythology specific to his perception, imagining the panorama of a night sky if diasporic cultural contributions were taken into account in global consciousness. The artist’s canvases testify to his perpetual commitment to this process of inserting diasporic cultural norms on a global scale. Her new six-foot works, as well as other muslin creations recently exhibited after several years of experimentation with textiles, largely reflect this ideology of the artist.
For his exhibition “Marking Oneself in Dark Places“, Tariku Shiferaw transforms Galerie Lelong & Co.‘s smallest space into a constant night sky painted on unstretched canvas panels, with 24 ceramic sculptures at its center. A sound component also emanates from the stored sculptures. Entitled A Sign in Space (2023), it is a sound constellation made up of sounds representative of the African diaspora, and belongs to the Mata Semay series.
In the gallery’s main room, viewers are greeted by a dark panorama of equally deep and obscure colors. Indeed, the works exhibited in this space feature dark tones adorned with shaded blue and purple backgrounds painted expressively to assert themselves as the prominent elements of the composition. In the paintings of the Mata Semay series, Tariku Shiferaw creates emotive backgrounds accentuated by abstract constellations to better present his vision of the night sky, while addressing the mystical essence of the universe. In the same series, The Dreaming (2022) is a large-scale painting in which the contemporary artist superimposes this chimerical background through an iterative grid pattern to address the futile concept of being able to control space.
Numerous other works on display at the art space come from the artist’s various series, each addressing a specific theme of his perception and engagement. These include his latest installation, “A Sign in Space“, the title of which is inspired by Italo Calvinovolume’s Cosmicomics, a collection of short stories relating to the scientific theory of the creation and evolution of the universe. Allegorically, this work counts the efforts of a principal being to mark a place with a sign that shows its presence in the vast expanse that is the universe.
Also among the works in the One of These Black Boys series is a piece dealing with the problems of systemic suppression. Tariku Shiferaw covers this painting with mixed techniques such as iridescent film and acrylic before coating it with layers of polymousseline. The composition of the canvas is such that the opacity of the fabric layers changes according to the visual angle, prompting the viewer to centralize his or her observation and investigate visual aspects in cultural spaces. To better imbue his works with cultural histories in reference to his ideals, the creations in the One of These Black Boys series are titled after songs from various musical genres by artists of the African diaspora, such as jazz, hip pop, R&B and blues, among others.
Tariku Shiferaw’s exhibition “Marking Oneself in Dark Places” offers a captivating exploration of metaphysical conceptions and societal structure through the innovative use of abstract painting. Using color and texture to mark the space, Tariku Shiferaw immerses the art space in a chimerical universe of self-created dark skies, inviting the viewer to reflect on the markings of diasporic societies that have so far remained in the shadows of global consciousness.