Addis Fine Art is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Tariku Shiferaw featuring works from his "One of These Black Boys" series for the 2018 edition of AKAA, Also Knows As African art and design fair, Paris.
In his series, "One of These Black Boys", Tariku explores painting and societal structures through mark-making. Mark making in his words, "is important as the mark itself. Or else, the context can be blurred and forgotten behind the physical aesthetics." Taking the names of songs from Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Blues, and Reggae music, Shiferaw makes paintings that embody the experiences and struggles expressed through music by Black artists and composers. Shiferaw often explores a spectrum of topics ranging from the notion of black bodies in a white social construct to the popular idioms of romance, sex and daily life. Appropriating song titles as points of reference for his paintings, the works automatically inherit musical references, identities andhistories. Every song used to title his paintings relays a story that refers to a specific reality; Tariku explains "So, a piece could be titled "If I Rule The World (Nas)," which references the 1996 song by Nas featuring Ms. Lauren Hill and what the song accomplished in society at that time. It was very poetic, deep, and spoke to the current circumstance of the everyday life for the Black body. It was a song that helped imagine an alternative reality, similar to what Afrofuturisim does in the visual arts world." It is important to understand that the works are not a visual representation of these songs. The titles are, in their own way, an addition to the physical mark-making, one of the many layers the paintings are composed of. Thus, Shiferaw utilises repetitive patterns both aesthetically and conceptually. Subtle, yet intricate, the works inhabit a distinct space and powerful authority, acting as placeholders for Black bodies; they establish, quite literally, a way of being "seen" in a society that often prefers overlooking the Other.
Using a variety of materials like, tape, plastic and wooden pallets his works are formal, minimal, inherently abstract. Initially, the geometric horizontal and vertical bands were inspired by the forms of stacked shipping pallets he encountered on the streets in New York City. Then he began to think about music structures as well as censorship, which later translated to the censorship of Black
following in the traditional conversation of painting and making marks and gestures that interrogate the space. A mark, like in the caveman days, says "I am here" or "I was here." It reveals the thinker behind the gesture. It's some sort of evidence that someone was there prior to the marks to affect the space. I believe the identity of the mark-maker is as equally existence. According to Adrienne Edwards, Curator at the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, abstraction traditionally wasn't perceived as an option for artists interested in 'blackness". But Tariku is part of a growing group of black artists using abstraction as a way to engage questions of equity, justice and race related questions but also to embed them in an art historical framework that was previously inaccessible.
"One of These Black Boys" in Tariku's words "interrogates the act of mark-making and the identity and role of the author of these marks. I use geometric forms because of their ambiguous nature. Placing these forms against the atavistic painterly gestures of art history's abstract movements results in marking oneself into a history that has largely been dominated by the white male. These marks act as redactions that refute that exclusionary discourse in the art world."