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Tariku Shiferaw

For the first public program in conjunction with the 2022 Summer Exhibition, You’d Think By Now, Smack Mellon is thrilled to host a conversation between exhibiting artist Tariku Shiferaw and physicist Dr. Stephon Alexander, moderated by the exhibition’s curator, Rachel Vera Steinberg.

In this talk Shiferaw will discuss his installation, A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams, which combines painting, sound, and sculpture, fusing abstraction that re-engages ancient African diasporic knowledge with sound and image making practices from history through the present. Through this installation, Shiferaw proposes a new mythology to imagine how the night sky would exist if diasporic cultural contributions were considered in the global consciousness. Alexander revisits the interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He explores new ways music, in particular jazz music, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the physics of the early universe. Finally, he discusses ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from “improvisational logic” exemplified in Jazz performance and practice.

Physicist and musician Stephon Alexander has straddled the worlds of theoretical physics and jazz music over the last two decades. He works on the connection between the smallest and largest entities in the universe pushing Einstein’s theory of curved space-time to extremes, beyond the big bang with subatomic phenomena.

Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University, with previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Penn State, Dartmouth College and Haverford College. Alexander is a specialist in the field of string cosmology, where the physics of superstrings are applied to address longstanding questions in cosmology. In 2001, he co-invented the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory called D-Branes. In such models the early universe emerged from the destruction of a higher dimensional D-brane which ignites a period of rapid expansion of space often referred to as cosmic inflation.

Tariku Shiferaw is a New York based artist who explores mark-making through painting, addressing issues around space-making within societal structures. Group exhibitions include Men of Change, a four-year nationally traveling exhibition with the Smithsonian Institution (2019-2023); Unbound, at the Zuckerman Museum of Art (2020-2021); The 2017 Whitney Biennial, as part of Occupy Museums (2017); A Poet*hical Wager, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (2017); and What’s Love Got to Do With It?, at The Drawing Center (2019). Solo exhibitions include It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang, at Galerie Lelong, NY (2021), This Ain’t Safe, at Cathouse Proper, Brooklyn (2018); and Erase Me, at Addis Fine Art, London (2017). Shiferaw participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (2018 -2019) and Open Sessions at The Drawing Center (2018 – 2020). He is currently an artist-in-residence at Silver Art Projects (2020 – 2022).

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