Tariku Shiferaw (b. 1983. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) explores painting and social structures through mark-making. Taking the names of songs from Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Blues, and Reggae music, Shiferaw makes paintings that embody the experiences and struggles expressed through music by Black artists and composers. Shiferaw often explores a spectrum of topics ranging from the notion of black bodies in a white social construct to the popular idioms of romance, sex and daily life. Appropriating song titles as points of reference for his paintings, the works automatically inherit musical references, identities and histories, portrayed throughout the work. Every song used to title his paintings relays a story that refers to a specific reality; they also become, in their own way, an addition to the physical mark-making the paintings are composed of. Thus, Shiferaw utilizes repetitive patterns both esthetically and conceptually. Subtle, yet intricate, the works inhabit a distinct space and powerful authority, acting as placeholders for Black bodies; they establish, quite literally, a way of being “seen” in a society that often prefers overlooking the Other. His works are in some way as minimal and subtle as Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, whose large works, made with slight variations in chromatic gradients of black paint, are echoed in Shiferaw’s art.
Shiferaw was raised in Los Angeles, where he earned his BFA from the University of Southern California in 2007. In 2015, he received his MFA from Parsons School of Design. Recent exhibitions include the 2017 Whitney Biennial as part of Occupy Museum’s Debtfair; a group exhibition titled “A Poet*hical Wager” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland; and a solo show, “Erase Me,” at Addis Fine Art, London project space. His work has been featured in Hyperallergic, the Washington Post, and Art In America, among a variety of other publications. Shiferaw currently lives and works in New York.