Exhibition - Tariku Shiferaw: It's a Love Thang, It's a Joy Thang

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 10:00am

Galerie Lelong Gallery
528 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001

Please call before attending any community events. It is likely that they will be postponed or canceled as a result of the coronavirus. You can find CDC coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP has additional resources at aarp.org/coronavirus.

Galerie Lelong & Co., New York, is pleased to present It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang, our first solo exhibition with Tariku Shiferaw. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and currently based in New York City, Shiferaw’s practice of mark-making references the historicity of abstract painting and its hierarchical structures embedded in scholarship. It’s a love thang draws inspiration from the ongoing movement of Black joy that has increasingly gained momentum among creatives as a source of community-building and healing.

The exhibition will present new works to the public from Shiferaw’s ongoing series of paintings One of These Black Boys, which the artist began working on a larger scale in the past year. Titled after songs from musical genres by artists of the African diaspora such as Hip-hop, R&B, Reggae, Afrobeats, Blues, and Jazz, the paintings reiterate the artists’ stage names and song titles. Both stretched on canvas and draped from the wall, the paintings intentionally hold space for the Black bodies and cultures they represent. For Shiferaw, working in abstraction entails a re-envisioning of identity and form, the gestural surface in his paintings and mark-making is his reclamation of a space that was denied to many artists.

A new site-specific installation Jerusalema (Master KG) (2021) embodies both the artist’s lived experience of Black joy and his childhood in Los Angeles, California, creating an environment where reality and fantasy exist on the same plain. A live palm tree in the middle centers the visitor’s attention, an immediate place-maker reminiscent of Shiferaw’s time spent in the neighborhoods of L.A. and a nod to how palm trees are often used to demarcate spaces of relaxation. 

Reflective mylar sheeting and chain-link fencing covers one wall, intimating a version of the visitor’s presence and body into view that is separated by the fence. On the other wall, small wooden objects are installed against a panel of pink paint; recalling the artist’s early use and subversion of utilitarian shipping pallets to make art. Toi Derricotte’s poem, “Joy is an act of resistance” is printed in a small font, inviting a closer look. She asks, “What does her love have to do with five hundred years of sorrow, then joy coming up like a small breath, a bubble? What does it have to do with the graveyards of the Atlantic, in her mother’s heart?” Derricotte is not alone in embodying Black joy in her practice, its ethos is rooted in a blues-based tradition and has been expressed by creatives across multiple periods and media, from Zora Neale Hurston and Maya Angelou, to the musicians Shiferaw names his works after, including Solange and Kendrick Lamar.

A highlight of the exhibition, A Boy Is A Gun (Tyler the Creator) (2020) comprises blue paint applied directly to the gallery wall in a rectangular form, with 12 black wooden objects that echo pallets installed on the surface. Previously exhibited at the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw, the semi-permanence of the paint in the museum and present gallery environment adds another layer to the work that speaks to its realization through another body, removed from the artist’s hand.

Exhibition Date: April 1, 2021 - May 15, 2021 

This event listing provided for the New York community events calendar. Community events are not associated with or sponsored by AARP, but may be of interest to you. If you have an event to share, let us know!

Images provided by AmericanTowns.com, Ticketmaster

More from AARP in New York

Upcoming AARP Events

View All AARP Events »


Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

AARP Member Card

Join or Renew Today

JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR

  • Immediate access to your member benefits
  • Discounts on travel and everyday savings
  • Subscription to the award-winning AARP The Magazine
  • An ally on the issues that matter most to you in New York
  • Free membership for your spouse or partner
JOIN NOW