Viewing Room Main Site
Skip to content

Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue

September 10 – October 24, 2020

Ficre Ghebreyesus  Gate to the Blue, c. 2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)  GL13745
​Ficre Ghebreyesus  Tis Time to Seek Asylum, c.2007-11  Acrylic on canvas  14 x 18 inches (35.6 x 45.7 cm)  GL13830
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Boat at Night, c.2002-07  Oil on canvas  11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)  GL14135
Ficre Ghebreyesus La Amistad, 2002 Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm) Framed: 13.5 x 16.5 x 1.75 inches (34.3 x 41.9 x 4.4 cm) GL13650
Ficre Ghebreyesus Untitled, c.2002-07 Acrylic on canvas 11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm) Framed: 13.5 x 16.5 x 1.75 inches (34.3 x 41.9 x 4.4 cm) GL13750
Ficre Ghebreyesus Angel and Musician, c.2011 Acrylic on canvas Diptych; each: 24 x 48 inches (60.9 x 121.9 cm) Framed: 51 x 50.5 x 2 inches (129.5 x 128.3 x 5.1 cm)
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Seated Musician VI, 2011  Acrylic on canvas  48 x 24 inches (121.9 x 61 cm)  GL13481
Mangia Libro, c. 2007 Acrylic on canvas 54.25 x 48.1 inches (137.8 x 122.2 cm) GL13425
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Red Hats and Balloons, c.2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61 cm)  GL13519
​Ficre Ghebreyesus  Zememesh Berhe's Magic Garden, c.2002  Acrylic on unstretched canvas  95 x 190 inches (241.3 x 482.6 cm)  GL13877
Ficre Ghebreyesus Bent Tree, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 24 inches (76.2 x 61 cm) Framed: 32.5 x 26.5 x 1.5 inches (82.6 x 67.3 x 3.8 cm) GL13585
Ficre Ghebreysus  Seated Musician with Feathered Wing, 2011  Acrylic on canvas  Diptych; each:  24 x 48 inches (61 x 121.9 cm)  Framed: 51.4 x 50.5 x 2 inches (130.6 x 128.3 x 5.1 cm)  GL13495
Ficre Ghebreysus  Gate to the Compound, 2006  Acrylic on canvas  48.25 x 48.25 inches (122.6 x 122.6 cm)  GL13397
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Untitled, c.2002-07   Acrylic on canvas  22 x 28 inches (55.9 x 71.1 cm)  GL13617
Ficre Ghebreysus  Nkisi, c. 2011  Acrylic on canvas  48 x 52.2 inches (121.9 x 132.6 cm)  GL13426
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Middle Passage Figures with Solitary Boats, c.2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  24 x 30 inches (61 x 76.2 cm)  Framed: 26.5 x 32.5 x 2 inches (67.3 x 82.6 x 5.1 cm)  GL13621
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Horizon with Interred Figures, c.2002 -07  Acrylic on canvas  14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 27.9 cm)  Framed: 16.5 x 13.63 x 1.63 inches (41.9 x 34.6 x 4.1 cm)  GL13754
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Boat, c.2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  14 x 18 inches (35.6 x 45.7 cm)  GL13646
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Kite, c.2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  7 x 5 inches (17.8 x 12.7 cm)  GL13929
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Untitled, c. 2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  6 x 4 inches (15.2 x 10.2 cm)  Framed: 7.6 x 5.75 x 1.75 inches (19.3 x 14.6 x 4.4 cm)  GL14007
​Ficre Ghebreyesus  Untitled (Window), c.2002-07  Acrylic on canvas  7 x 5 inches (17.8 x 12.7 cm)  GL13989
Ficre Ghebreyesus  Bird, c.2011  Acrylic on canvas   5 x 7 inches (12.7 x 17.8 cm)  GL13934
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue
Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue

Press Release

Opening Thursday, September 10, 2020, 10:00am – 5:30pm

Conversation and Virtual Toast with Elizabeth Alexander and Jason Moran: 6:00pm – 7:00pm (RSVP on Zoom)

Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, is pleased to present a solo exhibition of works by Ficre Ghebreyesus, the late artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City, and his first with the gallery. Gate to the Blue extends the previous online presentation to the physical gallery space and introduces new paintings, with a large majority of works presented to the public for the first time.

Ghebreyesus passed away unexpectedly at the age of fifty in 2012, leaving behind a visual narrative and language distinguishably his own. Borrowing the title from one of his works, Gate to the Blue suggests not only a color significant to Ghebreyesus, but also an opening to the boundless sea and sky; an entry point to the unknown which was a constant in the artist’s life as a refugee who fled his native Eritrea to eventually settle in New Haven, Connecticut. The artist was highly influenced by music and was a lover of the blues genre that originated in the journey of enslaved people over water and is rooted in African musical traditions and spirituality.

In his distinctive palette, a marriage of unexpected harmonies arises from Ghebreyesus’s multiplicity of colors. Shifting seamlessly between abstraction and representation, the artist’s notable use of translucent layers of acrylic melds the people he met, the religions and cultures he was exposed to, and the alphabets of the seven languages he fluently spoke onto the canvas. In Mangia Libro (c. 2011), a morphing land and seascape surround a boy in yellow who walks through a dream-like space while reading a book clutched in his hands. The figure seems to float in the composition comprising windows and passageways in the background, while a whorl of iridescent green in the foreground hints at a body of water with rich biodiversity emerging from its surface. 

The work’s title “mangia libro” means “book-eater” in Italian. Having been Ghebreyesus’s nickname as a child, the painting commemorates the promising student whose education was halted by war.

Ghebreyesus made a formal choice to leave many of his monumental paintings unstretched—evoking religious frescoes of his childhood through their scale and manner of hanging close to the wall. Presented in their current state, the canvas’s cloth-like quality also reminds one of tapestries and alludes to the Eritrean textiles the artist conveyed in his vibrant checkerboard patterns. These patterns are a leitmotif in Ghebreyesus’s oeuvre, often subtly incorporated within the composition (as in Mangia Libro) or depicted in rapturous abundance such as in Zememesh Berhe's Magic Garden (c. 2002)—the largest work in the exhibition measuring close to eight feet tall and sixteen feet wide.

While Ghebreyesus is best known for the exuberance of color in his paintings, Gate to the Blue also highlights the artist’s darker-toned palette, suggesting the struggles he overcame in his life. Earth tones in deep greens, reds and browns are masterfully overlaid in Nkisi (c. 2011), which gets its title from the sacred nkisi of west-central African lore. Africans who were uprooted during the Atlantic slave-trade era carried knowledge of nkisi-making with them. In the painting, Ghebreyesus has depicted a red boat with small human figures journeying across a green sea as a larger figure looms in the background and gazes peacefully upon them. Readily incorporating references from various nations of the African continent and global cultures, Ghebreyesus’s work portrays a Pan-Africa that originates from his dreams and imagination, suggesting a yearning on his part as a member of the African diaspora.

Back To Top