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When he was alive, Ficre Ghebreyesus was chiefly accepted as the chef and co-owner of the Caffe Adulis in New Haven, a restaurant aggressive by the affable of Eritrea, his citizenry in East Africa.

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But he was additionally an about abstruse painter. Now, 10 years afterwards his afterlife and aloof two years afterwards his admission New York exhibit, Ghebreyesus the painter has ascended to the art world’s best acclaimed stage: the Venice Biennale.

He has bristles paintings in the appearance active through Sept. 25. The biggest, “City with a River Active Through,” is about 20 anxiety wide. Described in the Biennale archive as “a check of orange and acceptable colors,” it looks abstract, but in actuality borrows patterns from Eritrean basketry and embroidery.

Ficre Ghebreyesus’s “Nude with Bottle Tree,” c.2011.Acrylic on canvas 72 x 84 in (182.9 x 213.4 cm). The allotment is on affectation at the Venice Biennale. 

Another painting, “Nude with Bottle Tree,” is baby by comparison, alone six anxiety aerial and seven anxiety wide, but it is added figurative. A naked person, conceivably the artisan himself, is apparent from behind, his boring absent by a aberrant figure, aggregate warrior and jester, army on an bizarre donkey. The addition and donkey are abstracts from West African folklore.

Both paintings are anachronous 2011, the year afore his abrupt afterlife from a affection advance at age 50. At the time he was affiliated to Elizabeth Alexander, a Yale professor, biographer and poet, who would afterwards address an acclaimed memoir, “The Light of the World,” committed to him.

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The best iconic artisan apparent afterwards afterlife is, of course, Vincent van Gogh, but Ghebreyesus was different. He didn’t ache from abridgement of acceptance as van Gogh did. He abhorred it. Alike admitting he took painting seriously, accepting an MFA from the Yale Academy of Art in 2002, he about never showed his paintings during his lifetime. Yet he accumulated added than 800, abounding afflicted by his adolescence in Eritrea, again affianced in a continued war of ability from Ethiopia.

His aboriginal bounded afterward affectation was at the Artspace in New Haven in 2013. The added apple would appear to apperceive Ghebreyesus as an artisan in 2015 back Alexander appear “The Light of the World.”

Elizabeth Alexander and Ficre Ghebreyesus. 

However the book apprehend then, it now has passages of new, acute poignancy. Alexander wrote about back she and Ghebreyesus met in 1996, “the aboriginal affair he capital to do was appearance me his art.” Later, she writes that Ghebreyesus was shy about his artwork, alone accommodating to appearance it in his studio, admitting the advancement of abounding champions to exhibit.

“People will apperceive this assignment afterwards I’m gone, sweetie,” she wrote he would say to her. “He said it with a laugh, but he meant it.” 

Ghebreyesus became a refugee at age16, casual through several countries afore accession in New Haven and aperture Caffe Adulis with two brothers. In an artist’s account submitted with his art academy application, he wrote of the saints and angels he saw in Eritrea’s Coptic churches, of its age-old crafts and cavern assets as able-bodied as the “vision of hell incarnate” from its war with Ethiopia. In the closing paragraph, advertisement his dreams for the future, he wrote: “For one, I appetite to be a actual acceptable painter.”

Ficre Ghebreyesus’s “Fish,” c.2008-11. Acrylic on canvas 72 x 84 inches (182.9 x 213.4 cm). 

Ghebreyesus got his New York admission in a brace of 2020 exhibits organized by Galerie Lelong & Co., which had appear to represent his aesthetic estate. (Another artisan on its star-studded agenda is Yoko Ono.) The arcade accommodating the accommodation all bristles of his paintings in the Biennale from clandestine lenders and the artist’s estate. 

Lindsay Danckwerth, the gallery’s administrator of appropriate projects who formed on the exhibits, said Ghebreyesus’ astronomic “City” painting borrows from quilt-like maps he fabricated afore applying to art academy .

“Time does not feel linear,” Danckwerth said, anecdotic his work. “It feels like he’s affairs from memory, from dreams. He’s affairs from lived experience. It’s about as if time is suspended.”

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Coincidentally, the affair of the Biennale is “The Milk of Dreams,” adopted from a book by the aboriginal Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. Works by women and surrealism boss the axial exhibition of added than 200 alone artists. In an overview essay, the Biennale’s arch babysitter wrote that “the rediscovery of art’s myth-making abeyant can be seen” in Ghebreyesus’ all-embracing paintings.

Danckwerth was amid the bounded accidental that went to Venice for the official aperture April 23. She said Alexander and her two sons with Ghebreyesus additionally fabricated the trip.

At the time, Alexander, who is now additionally admiral of the Mellon Foundation, was in the bosom of a promotional bout for her latest book, “The Trayvon Generation.” In “The Light of the World,” she tells how her bedmate had waited up for her the night afore he died.

“He admired address aloft all else,” she wrote. “The best and affliction of the apple were all in his head. He put it on canvas and gave it to us.”

Editor’s Note: This commodity has been adapted to analyze how continued ago Ghebreyesus died and that his 2013 exhibition was captivated posthumously. 

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