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Tariku Shiferaw with Larry Ossei-Mensah

Galerie Lelong & Co., New York is pleased to present a conversation held on occasion of Tariku Shiferaw's solo exhibition Marking Oneself in Dark Places, on view in the gallery from September 7 to October 21, 2023. 

Join the artist in conversation with Larry Ossei-Mensah, curator and cultural critic, as they discuss Shiferaw's practice and the works on view, including new paintings and an installation. The exhibition presents works 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. 

About the Speakers

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.


Larry Ossei-Mensah is a Ghanaian-American curator and cultural critic who uses contemporary art and culture as a forum to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. Ossei-Mensah has organized exhibitions, conversations, and programs with commercial and nonprofit spaces around the globe featuring artists such as Firelei Baez, Steve McQueen, Amoako Boafo, Catherine Opie, Nick Cave, Cheryl Pope, Guadalupe Maravilla, Ebony G. Patterson, Judy Chicago, Allison Janae Hamilton, Zeh Palito, and Stanley Whitney, to name a few. The global venues Ossei-Mensah has collaborated with on exhibitions include such spaces as MOAD in San Francisco, the Contemporary at Museum in Houston, MOCAD, MASS MoCA, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, LUCE Gallery, Ben Brown Fine Arts in Hong Kong & London, MCA Denver, and the 7th Athens Biennale in Athens, Greece, which he co-curated with OSMK Social Club. A native of The Bronx, Ossei-Mensah co-founded ARTNOIR, a nonprofit whose mission is to drive racial equity in the art world by centering creatives, curators, collectors, and communities of color. He currently has The Speed of Grace, his first exhibition in São Paulo, on view at Simões de Assis. This Fall he will be presenting Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks at the Denver Art Museum. 


Portrait of Tariku Shiferaw by Christopher Garcia Valle. Portrait of Larry Ossei-Mensah by Aaron Ramsey.

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