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WOSENE (WORKE KOSROF) - Artists - Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery, Santa Barbara's Finest Art Gallery

Building with Words V, 2017

28 x 28 inches  |  acrylic on canvas

Born in 1950 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Wosene is a contemporary artist who has achieved international acclaim. Formally trained at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Art, 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 has created an internationally recognized artistic signature though the expressive use of his native Amharic script as a core motif in his paintings and sculptures. This recognizable ‘signature’ emerges from the way he elongates, distorts, dissects and reassembles Amharic calligraphy – not as literal words – but as images that speak for themselves in a visual language accessible to international audiences. Jazz improvisations underlie his compositions, animating them with rhythmic movements and emboldening his masterful use of color.

The very nature of Wosene’s work – his visual vocabulary, his ‘mapping’ of cultures across time and place, his sensual use of form and color – testifies to the visual power and versatility of language. “I create a visible, interactive surface – like visual icons that are accessible to everyone. My paintings invite viewers to dialogue with them, to take them into their memory.” A major aspect of Wosene’s works is that they present us with a challenge to look into the art, feel its effect, and to watch what happens. He paints from a place between mastery and uncertainty – and so the viewer too can approach his work to discover meanings that emerge through interaction.

Wosene has produced five major series of paintings in which he defined an ‘aesthetics of script’: Graffiti Magic (1980-1987); Africa: The New Alphabet (1988-1994); Color of Words (1995-2003); Words: From Spoken to Seen (2004-2008); and, his current series WordPlay (2009-present).

Wosene lives and has his studio in Berkeley, California.


3:13  |  Narrated by Nathan Vonk  |  Released for WOSENE WORKE KOSROF: For Love of Words

More Information


School of Fine Art, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
MFA Howard University, Washington, D.C. 



National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (Preacher, 2000)
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN (Untitled, 1990)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Mott Warsh Collection, Flint, MI
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (Words of Judgement II, 2005)
Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh-Durham, NC (Caribbean Days, 2005)
Samuel P. Harn Museum, University of FL, Gainesville (Scrolls of the Ancestor #IV, 1994)
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana
Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT
Völkerkunde Museum, Zürich, Switzerland
Peter Gray Museum, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
United Nations, New York, NY
Rockefeller Collection, New York, NY


Interview with Sotheby's
African Art in London 
The Pleasures and Dangers of Learning to See by Wosene Kosrof



2022WOSENE WORKE KOSROF: Beyond Words, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2020WOSENE WORKE KOSROF: For Love of Words, Sullivan Goss, Satna Barbara, CA
The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
Keith Haring Museum of Japan, Kobuchizawa, Japan
National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT
Folkens Museum Etnografiska, Stockholm, Sweden
Paul Mahder Gallery, Healdsburg, CA
Skoto Gallery, New York, NY
Gallery of African Art, London, UK
Hoshigaoka Gallery, Kochi, Japan
St. George Gallery, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Loft Galeria, Puerto Vallarta, MX
Parish Gallery, Washington, DC

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