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Black Artists Claim Their Birthright of Abstraction

 written by Seph Rodney, Hyperallergic, December 3, 2020

When I see Abstraction in the Black Diaspora at False Flag gallery I think about what Lowery Sims said to me years ago when I asked her about the historical basis for a young cohort of Black artists using abstraction to signal a distinctly political Blackness: “If you take the track that abstraction came out of African art, then we are just claiming our birthright.” The work here, co-curated by the artist Tariku Shiferaw and curator and artist Ayanna Dozier, confidently lays claim to this inheritance.


This sense of rightfully belonging to this aesthetic and cultural form comes through in pieces like Shiferaw’s “Kenya” (2020), which mimics the Kenyan flag but renders the horizontal bars of color in freehand swirls of red, green, and black, with the central Maasai shield and crossed spears made visible by selectively masking parts with white paint — suggesting that the tools for defense become apparent under the imposition of whiteness.


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Tariku Shiferaw, Kenya, 2020

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