In ‘Colonial Ruptures,’ Artist Sharif Bey Defies the Constraints of Time through Fragmented Figures



#Sharif Bey

August 3, 2022

Grace Ebert

“The Oviary I,” earthenware, combined media. All photos © Sharif Bey, shared with permission.

Artist Sharif Bey centers his observe all over recontextualizing, a procedure he undertakes by fracturing extensive-held views through fragments. His figurative sculptures unify disparate supplies and broad cultural references across generations and eras—his will work are notably undated—drawing on each the aesthetics of West-Central Africa, significantly the religious protectors recognised as nkisi, and the industrial histories of his household and latest town of Syracuse.

Mainly crafted around bits of his own ceramic vessels, Bey’s operates are on look at at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum in a solo exhibition titled Colonial Ruptures, which queries the inherent price and electric power of objects, specially as they’re stripped from their authentic cultures via colonial violence and structural racism. Bowed nails and rusted spikes evoke the artist’s familial ties to boiler making, a profession the show’s curator Sequoia Miller connects to the restrictions of get the job done for Black men in the 1960s: “It was 1 of the couple of ways that African American families could go into the center course. [Bey is] wondering about his connection this entire lineage of labor, of creation, of middle-class id, and linking it to African American id, [to] entry to African cultural assets.”

Bey pairs these corroded metals with bits of shattered pottery and a reconstructed medley of his previously sculptures, which he’s broken and repositioned into new figures. His expressive, earthenware faces normally function a crack by way of an eye or cheek, while aura-like rings of found scraps encircle their glorified types. Each and every piece is deeply rooted in its original contexts and but open up-finished in the issues it suggests, a pairing the artist expands on in a assertion about the exhibition:

I am influenced by folklore, functional pottery, modernism, organic background, and a lifelong affinity for West African and Oceanic sculpture. My performs look into the symbolic and official properties of archetypal motifs, questioning how the meanings of icons, objects, and functions change across cultures and in excess of time.

In addition to Colonial Ruptures, which is on see as a result of August 28, a wide study of Bey’s functions is also up through August 14 at the Everson Museum. You can obtain much more of his sculptures on his website and Instagram.


“Boilermaker,” earthenware, combined media.

“Uplifted Faces,” earthenware, mixed media.

“Yardagain,” earthenware, combined media.

“Captains Wheel,” earthenware, blended media.

“Lion Chook Series: Alpha,” earthenware, blended media.

“Choir Singer,” earthenware, combined media.

#Sharif Bey


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