Ficre Ghebreyesus: Map / Quilt

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Open: Tue-Fri 10.30am-6pm, Sat 2pm-6.30pm

38 avenue Matignon, 75008, Paris, France
Open: Tue-Fri 10.30am-6pm, Sat 2pm-6.30pm


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Ficre Ghebreyesus: Map / Quilt

to Sat 22 Oct 2022

38 avenue Matignon, 75008 Ficre Ghebreyesus: Map / Quilt

Tue-Fri 10.30am-6pm, Sat 2pm-6.30pm

Artworks

Map / Quilt IV, 1999

Acrylic on unstretched burlap
157,5 x 164 cm
© The Estate of Ficre Ghebreyesus / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

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Untitled, 1999

Acrylic on unstretched canvas
164 x 105,5 cm
© The Estate of Ficre Ghebreyesus / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

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Untitled, circa 2011

Acrylic on canvas
51 x 61 cm
© The Estate of Ficre Ghebreyesus / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

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Untitled, 2002-07

Acrylic on canvas
20,5 x 15 cm
© The Estate of Ficre Ghebreyesus / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

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Ficre Ghebreyesus’ works are nourished by his rich experience as a citizen of the world. Born in Eastern Africa, in Eritrea, at the beginning of the Independence War (1961-1991), his mother urged him to flee as a teenager and he became a refugee in several different successive countries: Sudan, Italy, Germany. He ultimately settled in the U.S. where he received a degree from the Yale School of Art (and, upon graduation, the Carol Schlossberg prize for Excellence in Painting).

Ficre Ghebreyesus was actively engaged in Eritrea’s struggle for independence, while studying art at the Art Students League and Robert Blackburn Printmaking Studio, both in New York. Ghebreyesus spoke seven languages, played multiple instruments and earned a living as the chef of the popular restaurant he co-founded and co-owned: Caffé Adulis, in New Haven, Connecticut. While living there, he married and had two sons.

Operating between figuration and abstraction, fluidly passing from the one to the other, Ghebreyesus’ oil or acrylic paintings evoke the fluid and serpentine forms of dreams, memories, folk tales. Transient figures can be glimpsed, caught in the midst of vividly colourful constructions. A school of fish suggests a group of human figures, a boat emerges from intertwined shapes reminiscent of Eritrean weavings. His refusal of borders and of divisions seems to stem from an identity and a home that were continually evolving.

The gallery is pleased to be exhibiting Ghebreyesus’s work in France for the first time. The Paris exhibition is dominated by two large abstract, vividly colored Map Quilt paintings from 1999, and as their titles suggest their imagery simultaneously evokes an abstracted geography or landscape and the patterns and colors of Eritrean textiles. Also included are pastels from the 1990s, as well as a series of small delicate canvases in which landscapes merging into abstraction alternate with scenes peopled with human silhouettes, animals or flowers.

Although Ghebreyesus rarely exhibited his work in his lifetime, institutional exhibitions began in 2018 at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. His work is now included in several prominent museum collections including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Glenstone Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Rollins Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery. Galerie Lelong & Co. has represented his work since 2019 and organised his first New York solo exhibition in 2020. The 2022 Venice Biennale exhibition The Milk of Dreams curated by Cecilia Alemani offers Ghebreyesus’s work an international resonance.

Ficre Ghebreyesus was born in Asmara, Eritrea, in 1962; he passed away in New Haven, Connecticut (USA), in 2012. Writer and poet Elizabeth Alexander’s award-winning memoir The Light of the World chronicles her husband Ghebreyesus’s life and work. The Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue exhibition catalogue is published by Galerie Lelong & Co.


Les peintures de Ficre Ghebreyesus sont nourries de sa riche expérience de citoyen du monde. Né en Afrique de l’Est, en Erythrée, pendant les débuts de la guerre d’indépendance (1961-1991), sa mère le presse de s’enfuir encore adolescent et il devient un réfugié dans divers pays successifs, Soudan, Italie, Allemagne où il vit dans des conditions difficiles. Il réussit finalement à s’établir aux Etats-Unis où il obtient un diplôme de la Yale School of Art (lors de la cérémonie de fin d’année, il reçoit le prix d’excellence Carol Schlossberg).

Ficre Ghebreyesus a milité pour l’indépendance de l’Erythrée tout en étudiant la peinture, les techniques de l’estampe, en apprenant plusieurs langues (il en parlait sept), et en gagnant sa vie comme chef-cuisinier du fameux restaurant qu’il avait créé et dont il était copropriétaire, le Caffé Adulis, à New Haven, Connecticut. Il rencontre et épouse l’auteure et professeure d’université Elizabeth Alexander ; ils ont deux fils.

Opérant entre figuration et abstraction, passant alternativement avec souplesse de l’une à l’autre, les peintures à l’huile ou à l’acrylique de Ghebreyesus évoquent les formes fluides et serpentines du rêve, du souvenir et du conte. Des figures passagères peuvent s’y entrevoir, prises au milieu de constructions très colorées. Un banc de poissons se mue en silhouettes humaines, un bateau émerge de formes entrecroisées rappelant les tissages d’Erythrée. Son refus des frontières et des divisions semble naître de sa vision indéfectiblement optimiste d’une identité et d’un foyer toujours en mutation et en mouvement.

Alors que Ghebreyesus a décliné la plupart des offres d’exposition qui lui étaient faites au cours de sa vie, trop brève, les expositions institutionnelles ont commencé en 2018 au Museum of the African Diaspora de San Francisco. La Galerie Lelong & Co. représente son œuvre depuis 2019 et a organisé à New York sa première exposition personnelle en 2020. La Biennale de Venise 2022 offre à l’œuvre de Ghebreyesus une résonnance mondiale.

L’exposition est dominée par deux grandes toiles abstraites de 1999, non montées sur châssis, aux couleurs vives, qui font penser, l’une à la carte d’un territoire imaginaire vu en surplomb et l’autre à un assemblage de surfaces et d’objets stylisés. Viennent s’y ajouter des pastels floraux des années 90, et une suite de petites toiles délicates où alternent paysages virant vers l’abstraction et scènes avec personnages et animaux.

Ficre Ghebreyesus est né à Asmara, en Erythrée, en 1962 ; il est décédé à New Haven, Connecticut (USA), en 2012. Le catalogue de l’exposition Ficre Ghebreyesus: Gate to the Blue est publié par Galerie Lelong & Co.

Ficre Ghebreyesus, Map / Quilt IV, 1999. Acrylic on unstretched burlap 157,5 x 164 cm © The Estate of Ficre Ghebreyesus / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.


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