Wosene Worke Kosrof
Words Matter

July 22 - Sept 17, 2017

Words Matter - New Paintings by Wosene Worke Kosrof

“If you’ve got the feeling and if you’ve got the beat, “the legendary music critic Nat Hentoff once wrote, “you can play jazz on anything.”

I was flipping through my old LP’s and that quote popped out at me from a liner note. This idea of the beat, for an artist, is the foundation of everything – the rhythm behind life, culture and language. In the context of Wosene, that pulse is inherent in every work he makes. He’s got the feeling, and he’s got the beat: Wosene riffs off it, works patterns in and out of it, slows it down and often shatters it.

To this writer’s eye, Wosene’s work is both about language, and is language. As he puts it, each painting is a story but the writing is “distorted, an exaggeration, until the writing becomes air, like a wind turning things around.” To engage with his work is to reflect on what language is in all its components – his paintings invite us to consider the optical aspects of written language as well as the intangible, the inchoate.

His visual notations emerge from his native Ethiopian tongue of Amharic, spoken by almost 25 million worldwide and barely translatable in any agreed sense into written English. According to the exhibition’s title, “Words Matter”, but for Wosene words are more than just pods of meanings that form a sentence. The graphic curves and serifs that define the characters of Amharic in script are the “matter” with which he communicates in paint, and for Wosene their positions on the canvas, emerging and descending into fields of color and gestures, are of more value than specific definitions.

While some cultures consider Amharic as somewhat encrypted by religion, Wosene sees this code as strictly non-denominational. These forms are traces of memory, evolved and developed in his practice over decades and decades until they’re like a palimpsest. These “remembered” systems of his Ethiopian youth are filtered strongly by his expatriate status. Wosene, the Ethiopian born American artist, has been in the US for forty years, most currently in Berkeley, Caifornia, and this latest work in particular seems to manifest a traveled and varied life where inspiration arrives from myriad directions.

In the end, the implied musical improvisation in Wosene’s compositions make up yet another layer of this matrix of language, with each “note” interacting with the next in an Archie Shepp- like blast of spontaneous rhythm. And, like all great veteran improvisers, Wosene balances freedom with structure, benefitting naturally from the mastery acquired from fifty years of doing it. See and experience “Words Matter”: it’s a jam session of immense proportions.

Lawrence Gipe Los Angeles, 2017

(Healdsburg, Calif., July 2017) Born in 1950 in the Arat Kilo district of Addis Ababa, Wosene Worke Kosrof is a contemporary fine artist who has achieved international acclaim. Formally trained at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, he completed a BFA with distinction in 1972. Then, as a Ford Foundation Talent Scholar, he was awarded an MFA in 1980 from Howard University in Washington, DC.

Over the past four decades, Wosene (his professional name) has created an internationally recognized artistic signature in his work by being the first contemporary Ethiopian-born artist to use the script forms – fiedel – of his native Amharic as a core element in his paintings and sculptures.

Museums that have his works in their permanent collections include the National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (DC); The Newark Museum (NJ); Neuberger Museum (NY); Indianapolis Museum of Art (IN); Birmingham Museum of Art (AL); Fowler Museum of UCLA (CA); Samuel Harn Museum (FL); Krannert Art Museum, (IL): Fleming Museum (VT), the Völkerkunde Museum, Switzerland. He exhibits recent works in select galleries, and his paintings are included in many international private and corporate collections. Wosene lives and has his studio in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

This exhibit may be enjoyed through September 17, 2017 during our regular gallery hours of 10am – 6pm Wednesday - Monday.

For more information, please contact:
Paul Mahder, Director
(707) 473-9150
paul@paulmahdergallery.com