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In the galleries: Connecting modern abstraction with personal identity

 written by Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, March 11, 2022

Since its peak influence, mid-20th-century modern art has in some quarters been rejected, lampooned and even vilified. But its vocabulary is still widely employed, even by artists who question modernism’s continuing clout. Five of those painters and collagists are featured in “In Spite of Modernism: Contemporary Art, Abstract Legacies and Identity,” an exhibition that departs from the Arlington Arts Center’s usual group-show format. Rather than separate the contributors’ works, curator Haley Clouser has interspersed them so they complement and amplify each other.

The artists adopt formats and motifs familiar from modernist abstraction, but endow them with meaning connected to personal heritages. Thus Tariku Shiferaw and Paolo Arao, both New Yorkers, make large color-field pieces that draw on their individual backgrounds. Shiferaw arrays bars in shades of brown that represent the skin tones of his native Ethiopia...


That piece, redolent of the boxing ring and the slaughterhouse, is not the only one to invoke violence. One of Shiferaw’s sculptural paintings is boarded up and spray-painted like a burned-out storefront.


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Tariku Shiferaw, Black Diamonds and Pearls

(Blackalicious), 2017

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