The Artsy Vanguard 2021: Tariku Shiferaw
written by Erica Cardwell, Artsy, December 1, 2021
Abstract painter Tariku Shiferaw believes one of his earliest breakthroughs happened on one of his first days of high school. His freshman homeroom teacher, Mr. Elliot, told the class, “Do not let the system tell you what to think,” then disconnected the classroom’s public announcement system. Shiferaw recalls that his teacher was a “hippie muralist who played Afrobeat music” and whose distinct repudiation of systemic control left an indelible impact. At the time, Shiferaw was often teased by his elder siblings for not knowing the latest announcements or updates to the school schedule. Shiferaw smiles to himself as he recounts these early moments, recognizing now the influence they had on his individual approach to art.
Born in Ethiopia and based in New York, Shiferaw is becoming increasingly known for his distinctive approach to abstraction. In 2020, Galerie Lelong & Co. began representing Shiferaw, and earlier this year, he opened his first solo show with the gallery, “It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang.” Shiferaw is also represented by Addis Fine Art, and in the past two years, his work has been featured in group exhibitions at over a dozen museums and galleries, including the California African American Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney Museum, Zuckerman Museum of Art, False Flag, CFHILL, Piero Atchugarry Gallery, and LatchKey Gallery. As an artist whose star is steadily rising, what sets Shiferaw apart is the reverence and aesthetic value for Black vision and joy that remain central to his practice.
Tariku Shiferaw, 2021.
Photograph by Christopher Garcia Valle