Tariku Shiferaw

In my current body of work titled, “One Of These Black Boys,” I explore mark-making in order to address the physical and metaphysical spaces of painting and societal structures. The work interrogates the act of mark-making and the identity and role of the thinker responsible for the marks. I use geometric forms because of their intrinsic quality to remain ambiguous. Placing these forms against the atavistic painterly-gestures of art history’s abstract movements allows a space to insert oneself into a history that has overlooked a vast variety of “Others.” These marks become redactions that ultimately deny a portion of history.

Song titles in my work claim space and celebrate the existence of the Black body. Every piece is titled using Hip-Hop, R&B, Blues, Jazz, and Reggae music titles. These genres of music have historically been instruments of resistance against a system that has repeatedly attempted to silence and erase Black bodies. In appropriating song titles by Black artists, the work automatically inherits the references, identities, and history portrayed through the songs. When perceived contextually, each work becomes a placeholder that occupies the walls and floors of a white cube. The titles are another layer of content outside of the discourse of painting, which suggests a rebellious act against the systemic erasures of “Others,” and a push for a proper place in Western art history.


Image: Tariku Shiferaw, Blue Notes (Meek Mill), 2019, spray paint and vinyl, 60 x 48 in.

The LES Studio Program is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.