Friday, October 9, 2015

After PAFA: Sedakial Gebremedhim

Ethiopian born and Washington D.C. hailed artist, Sedakial allows his native tradition to take flight in his art.
On a Wednesday afternoon lunch hour, former Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts student Sedakial Gebremedhim discussed smooth transition from painter to sculptor and performance artist and becoming involved with Traction Company- a collective of PAFA alumni and faculty and working with the Ethiopian Community Center. 
During Gebremedhim's undergraduate year, working primarily as a painter, he had an urge to capture the “exotic,” creating colorful, lush portraits of brown skinned figures dressed in bold, patterned clothing. He then ventured far beyond two-dimensional composition, concentrating into the immediacy of performance arena, notion of exoticism retaining muted undertones. In one particular art work, drawing concepts on desires to float, he enlisted friends to help attach one hundred thirty balloons to his locs. The documented photographs, set around PAFA's Lenfast Plaza and the Philadelphia Museum of Art including the infamous Rocky steps, showcase playful humor and lighthearted candor. Locs are flying high, suspending away from his face, arguing with gravity, whereas his body is grounded yet carefree and exuberant. 

Moving Through Space, a stop motion video, dismantles the funniness founded in the balloon experiment. Partly abstract and silent, dark minimal color palette creates a rather obscure intensity, a false reality. In other explorations, he borrowed American, Asian, and European tourist videos of Africa, often concentrating on a still, a frame that interested him. He then strips that raw footage from its parenting, birthing new meaning.
In regards to Traction Company, John Greig Jr., PAFA's sculpture shop manager, asked Gebremedhim to join. No hesitation came to Gebremedhim, for the opportunity was a triumph, a blessing.
One rule of becoming a Traction Company member involved building a space- constructing a unit housed within the spacious West Philadelphia unit. That left a great challenge to become architect, construction builder, and artist simultaneously. With aide from fellow member Connie Ambrose, he was able to construct a studio within studio. Another requirement was to dedicate every Friday to Traction, being there 8-10 hours creating, maintaining, keeping communal socialization. 
In the meantime, heritage proud Gebremedhim shared a mural project that he painted alongside performing arts kids- a mural on the Ethiopian Community Center called "Future Stars." The stars are red, green, and yellow with an outlining white to make celestial pentagon pop.
Sketch drawings were an imperative part of perceiving ideas for “Dinner at Traction,” a vast, rectangular shaped compound with steel exterior and stunning pointed foam interior. Inside is a looping video. Stark, haunting sound plays, enveloping a lovely woman waiting. Suddenly, suit jacket clad Gebremedhim arrives out of thin air. For several interval minutes, they stare at each other before engaging in a shared traditional Ethiopian meal, at times feeding each other. It is revealed that the background timber is leftover from the massive truss centering the Traction Company's exhibit.

“I Ain't Got No Beef with Tofu” was a live performance held weeks ago. Inside Fisher Brooks Gallery, Gebremedhim turns the waiting sitter. He sits patiently at the black clothed table. The lovely woman seen in the installation returns, stepping inside Traction Company's exhibition, joining him for another prepared meal- this time served by an Ethiopian waitress. It was twelve minutes without talking- only eating. He then prepared a meal (cooking in the Historic Landmark Building's kitchen, viewers watched via Skype) and the audience participated, eating and sharing his Ethiopian food. 

See Sedakial Gebremedhim's art displayed alongside Traction Company's other prolific members:  Connie Ambridge, Steven Dailey, Jeffrey Dentz, Billy Dufala, Morgan Dummitt, Miguel Horn, Laura Giannini, John Greig Jr., Brendan Keen, Joshua Koffman, and Lucia Thomè for its final day on Sunday, October 11, 2015. Admission will be free.

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