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Tariku Shiferaw is known for his practice of mark-making that explores the metaphysical ideas of painting and societal structures. This formal language of geometric abstraction is executed through densely layering material to create “marks,” gestures that interrogate space-making and reference the hierarchy of systems. As the artist explains, “A mark, as physical and present as cave-markings… reveals the thinker behind the gesture—an evidence of prior markings of ideas and self onto the space.”

Apart from paint on canvases, Shiferaw also incorporates ready-made objects and materials in his installations, often using transparent and colored mylar, and subverting their utilitarian characteristics in assembly or hanging to create a body of evocative works that question perception and space. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, growing up in Los Angeles, and currently based in New York City, Shiferaw finds inspiration from the diverse cultures in his environments, particularly in the areas of music and language. Shiferaw’s ongoing series of paintings One of These Black Boys references musical genres that have originated in Black communities—Hip-hop, R&B, Reggae, Afrobeats, Blues, and Jazz—a context that charges the works with musical references, identities, and cultural histories. 

Shiferaw’s work may be understood in the framework of midcentury abstraction, but the artist also infuses this formal vocabulary with critical observations from popular culture.

Museum exhibitions that have presented works by Tariku Shiferaw include The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland (2023); You’d Think By Now at Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, New York (2022); Geometries at Sugar Hill Children's Museum of Art & Storytelling, New York (2022); Men of Change, organized by The Smithsonian Institution, and held at the California African American Museum (CAAM), Los Angeles (2021); Unbound at the Zuckerman Museum of Art (ZMA), Kennesaw, Georgia (2020); What’s Love Got to Do with It? at The Drawing Center, New York, New York (2019);  A Poet*hical Wager at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Ohio (2017-18); and the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Shiferaw has participated in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art (Studio), in Open Sessions at The Drawing Center (2018-2020), and has been an artist-in-residence at the LES Studio Program in New York City, at the World Trade Center through Silver Art Projects, and at ARCAthens, Greece.

Shiferaw was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1983, raised in Los Angeles, California, and now lives and works in New York City.

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