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‘Joy Can Be an Act of Resistance’: Rising-Star Artist Tariku Shiferaw on the Provocatively Happy Ideas Behind His Abstractions

 written by Katie Moore, Artnet, April 26, 2021

Tariku Shiferaw believes joy can be radical.

For his new solo show at Galerie Lelong in New York, which opened this month (“It’s a Love Thang, It’s a Joy Thang“), Shiferaw has transformed the gallery into a metaphysical oasis of sorts.

His dazzling blue canvases, crossed by rectangular bars of blacks and browns, appear like glimpses of ocean and sky. Shipping pallets painted black hang on the walls at oddly musical and surprisingly uplifting angles. There’s a palm tree, a bit of sand. A sense of personal refuge, of rest, fills up the show. 

Everything here is purposeful. The Addis Ababa-born, Los Angeles-raised artist takes utilitarian materials—transparent mylar, shipping pallets, a chainlink fence—and enters them into the formal language of abstraction. The materials hint at an industrial, urban existence, and the horizontal bars of his paintings and the pallets can be read as prison bars.


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Tariku Shiferaw, A Boy is a Gun (Tyler, The Creator), 2020 (close up)

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