written by Ayanna Dozier, Artsy, July 5, 2022
While “You’d Think By Now” is a response to the political climate, the politics in the show can be quite subtle. Take, for instance, the inclusion of abstract painter and Artsy Vanguard 2021 honoree Shiferaw. His monumental installation A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams (2022) examines Dogon's discoveries regarding constellations and celestial bodies, which have been disregarded by the West.
A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams is the first exhibited work from Shiferaw’s latest series “Mata Semay” (Amharic for “night skies”), and features seven towering 24-by-8-foot canvas panels, several ceramic crates that resemble wood, and a 23-minute audio featuring musical compositions from across the African diaspora. Shiferaw painted the colossal A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams paintings over an eight-month period at the artist’s studio space at Silver Arts Projects at the World Trade Center and at the New York City Culture Club.
The abstract canvases feature deep purple, blue, and black hues that evoke a nacreous night sky. On top, Shiferaw has layered precise geometric patterns that resemble star constellations. Shiferaw believes that abstraction can teach audiences to examine culture, telling Artsy that “by casting the constellations as ideas of history rather than a fact, I could examine how those ideas are passed down and inform other cultures and more thoroughly engage in the rich cultural exchange between Ethopians and Black Americans.”
Many Western audiences don’t know that Dogon's star constellations predate Western Greek constellations by several thousand years. “Mata Semay” provokes them to reconsider what the West considers a scientific “discovery,” while disregarding Eastern ideas and advancements. A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams advances a quiet, nuanced political argument, thinking about the geographical and cultural contours of Blackness—and its previously overlooked understandings of the universe.
Tariku Shiferaw, A Strange Place to Cast Our Dreams, 2022
Photo by Christopher Garcia Valle