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September 9-12, 2021   Javits Center

#ArmoryAccess

Armory Access offers a platform for galleries from The Armory Show 2020 Presents section with the goal of facilitating digital engagement with their current gallery exhibitions.

Addis Fine Art | Merikokeb Berhanu | Cellular Universe

Engaged with a long and deeply-rooted tradition of Ethiopian painting, Merikokeb Berhanu's works feature abstract forms with dense backgrounds that interact with organic symbols. Informed by the physical structures and her own psychological musings, the rich and complex imagery she creates, manifests a sensitive understanding of personal and collective life.

About the Exhibition

Merikokeb’s vibrant works in this exhibition at first glance appear abstract: swirls of color circulate organically across the canvas creating imagery that mesmerizes and draws in the viewer. Closer inspection reveals recognizable forms; familiar patterns from the natural world start to emerge, creating a mysterious almost subterranean atmosphere. Life-generating forms, such as orange seed pods, embryos, fallopian tubes, and pulsing cells, are set against a network of gaunt, drooping figures, and surreal earthly structures.

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Absorbed by questions of life and death and the human condition, Merikokeb draws inspiration from nature and life itself. She uses recurrent themes from nature to referring to personal concepts and emotions. For example, her image of the brain situated outside the body signifies imbalances of life caused by human conciseness and ingenuity. With repeated references to cells, “the building blocks of life” in both human and organic forms, Merikokeb reminds us that all life is interconnected. She aims to create an opposition to the imbalance and injustice she sees in the world around her. The embryo, another recurrent symbol, represents the nurturing and birth of people’s ideas and opinions. Merikokeb also embraces ambiguity in her works by leaving them untitled, thereby allowing the viewer to interpret the enigmatic symbolic language for themselves.

About the Artist: Merikokeb Berhanu

Merikokeb Berhanu (b. 1977, Addis Ababa), graduated from the Addis Ababa University, Ale School of Fine Arts and Design in 2002 and was trained by an elite group of Modernist artists at the influential art school.

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Apart from the influence of the Ethiopian Modernist legacy, Merikokeb's work resonates with twentieth-century Western female artists like Georgia O'Keeffe and Hilma af Klint, who created paintings that depict their own emotional states, following their subconscious and translating feelings and ideas into abstract symbols. Merikokeb's attempt to represent her inner world also resembles the Symbolists' desire to escape from reality by expressing their personal dreams and visions through colors, form, and composition. Yet, despite such visual references to European art movements, Merikokeb's practice is intrinsically African; she employs this syncretic vision to carve out space in the current discourse in contemporary art.

Exhibition Artwork

Inquire with the gallery for up-to-date availability and further details

Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled XXXIV, 2019
48 1/8 x 35 7/8 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled LII, 2020
48 x 60 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled LI, 2020
48 x 60 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled XLIII, 2020
68 x 68 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled XLVII, 2020
60 x 48 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled XLVIII, 2020
58 x 50 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.
Merikokeb Berhanu
Untitled XXXVII, 2019
48 1/8 x 35 7/8 in
Acrylic on canvas
Courtesy of Addis Fine Art and the artist.