Main Gallery

Ficre Ghebreyesus: Polychromasia

Curator: Key Jo Lee

March 30—April 24, 2013

Opened on March 30, 2013, this retrospective exhibition celebrated the work and life of the late Eritrean-born artist. While his paintings and photographs are in many private collections, this was the first solo exhibition drawn from his vast body of work.

Polychromasia, or multicolored, aptly describes Ghebreyesus’s work, which bursts at the seams with chromatic energy, kinetic form, and optical intensity. His paintings, pastels, and photographs bear witness to multitudinous sites of inspiration. Of his work, Ghebreyesus wrote:

“…When I paint I am accompanied by dissonances, syncopations, and the ultimate will for life and moral order of goodness. A trip to the market guaranteed a dazzling range of traditional crafts repeated from one generation to the next without ongoing critical intervention and independent of religious function. These crafts included a dazzling range of works such as reed baskets and hand-spun, hand-woven embroidered cotton garments in exquisitely-resolved colors. The caves near my mother’s village are full of prehistoric rock drawings and paintings. My eyes took in all of this; my painting allowed me finally to process the seemingly dissonant visual information.”

Ghebreyesus achieves syncretic brilliance. Framed by Eritrean crafts, textiles and architecture; the polyglot influence of world literature and philosophies; BeBop, modern jazz and polyrhythms of the African diaspora; as well as the masterworks of paintings populating the museums Ghebreyesus frequented, the works that have been selected for Polychromasia offer a survey of the myriad styles, mediums, and scales that he worked in over his career. A catalog featured texts by Anne Higonnet, Key Jo Lee, and Robert F. Thompson, as well as an introduction by Ghebreyesus’ wife, poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander. The exhibition featured accompanying events in conjunction with scholars and academic departments from Yale University.

About the Artist:

Ficre Ghebreyesus was born in Asmara, Eritrea. He studied painting at the Art Students’ League and printmaking at the Bob Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, both in New York City. He also studied at Yale University, where he earned his M.F.A. in 2002 and was awarded the Carol Schlossberg Prize for Excellence in Painting at graduation.

Ghebreyesus made his life in New Haven for almost thirty years, where he lived with his wife Elizabeth Alexander and their sons Solomon and Simon. From 1992–2008, he was the chef/co-owner of the immensely popular Caffe Adulis that brought Eritrean cuisine to New Haven and New York City. He also worked tirelessly on issues involving Eritrea and its independence.