It's a love thang, it's a joy thang
“In another time, in another place / You would be mine / On a brighter day, under a different sky,” croons the singer SiR, from his fittingly titled album “Chasing Summer.” The title of the exhibition for which Tariku Shiferaw selected the song, “It’s a love thang, it’s a joy thang,” distills a spectrum of emotions: happiness, wistfulness, and pain.
Each track from the playlist by Black artists is made up of hip hop, R&B, blues, and pop songs, and each song name lends itself to one of Shiferaw’s ongoing series of paintings. The series “One of These Black Boys,” of abstract canvases, struck through with skin tone colored bars, can be read variously: Cranes in the Sky (Solange) (2020), a redacted document before a whirling summer sky; You Can't Save Me (Sir) (2021), an attempt to introduce Brown and Black flesh tones to the thoroughly white-and-blonde depictions of American seaside leisure. Lastly, Slide (H.E.R.) (2021) [pictured], posits dark-flesh rectangular strips, over a scumbling Robert Ryman-like white background—perhaps a slight reproach to the discriminative culture of abstraction.
The installation of Jerusalema (Master KG) (2021), which spans an entire room, draws from the artist’s childhood in Los Angeles. It takes the form of a beach scene where loose canvases drape at the sides of the room like wet towels, and another blue towel—mirroring a body of water—is buried under sand. It imagines a utopia: fencing covers the wall with graffiti and a metallic-like reflective sheet in this unreachable place of leisure. “Joy,” reads the fine text on the wall, a line from a Toi Derricotte poem, “is an act of resistance.”
Tariku Shiferaw, Slide (H.E.R.), 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches.