Art alumnus Tilahun recognizes Adams State for contributing to his success

(03-07-2018)

left to right images from vital signs exhibit far left womb a black bowl with a human figure seen from above folded over from the waist; middle image Etherial 3 a blue glowing light encircles a blue circle with uneven edges and a sponge-like looking texture; far right image entitled school of thought a video still of a space craft opening to the glaxy with an astronaut outside the opening

Photo courtesy Abel Tilahun

Adams State University art alumnus Abel Tilahun, Class 2010, recently opened his one-person show, Vital Signs, at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center and credited his art professors for his success.

Born and raised in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, Tilahun moved with his wife, Isabelle Zaugg, to Alamosa, where her parents live, and started the art master's program. He soon felt at home and supported by the Art Department. "Art Professor Gene Schilling made my transition to the U.S. very smooth by taking on the responsibility of a friend, father figure, and mentor as he does for so many students that come from various parts of the country and the world."

He also appreciated Margaret Doell, associate vice president of academic affairs and former Art Department chair. "She was incredible in consulting with me about my research and practice, always kept her office open, and pushed me to work to my fullest potential." Roger Erikson, professor of art, also advised Tilahun on many projects and "maintained an engaging and fun environment where all students were encouraged to ask as many questions as humanly possible."

The art professors recognized Tilahun's art required a variety needs and provided him with a large studio space and extensive access to a high-end computer lab as well as opportunities and space to exhibit his work.

The Washington Post published a review of Vital Signs as did the African media station CGTN. Although Tilahun has achieved success and recognition as an artist, he continues to appreciate his experience at Adams State, especially the people. "What has particularly stuck with me, both in my work as an artist and a teacher, was Professor Schilling's humility and all the knowledge he so generously shares, not to mention his ability to find and nurture something special in every one of his students."

A recipient of the Adams State Cloyde Snook Scholarship, Tilahun exhibited his first U.S. solo show in the Cloyde Snook Gallery. "The immense amount that I gained from other ASU students, staff, and faculty can't be summed up in a few words. I am humbled and grateful for all the patience and support that I received from them."

Vital Signs explores the universal human experience through the manifold meaning associated with the human body, its parts, its sustenance, and its loftiest ambitions. Vital Signs reflects Tilahun's multidisciplinary practice in sculptural installation, video art, drawing, and painting, linked by consistent semiotic concerns. At the heart of his work are traces of both the cutting edge and the long arc of history. Vital Signs, which closes March 11, was curated by Meskerem Assegued.

Tilahun received his Master of Art in art from Adams State and his BFA in sculpture from Addis Ababa University's Ale School of Fine Arts and Design. He splits his time between his Addis Ababa studio and Washington, DC, where he has taught as an adjunct professor at American University and Marymount University.

He and Isabelle welcomed their fifth child, Hannah, during the run of Vital Signs.

Tilahun has shown solo exhibitions Odyssey? (2017) at Alliance Ethio-Francaise (AEF) in Addis Ababa, Interface Effect (2014) at AEF, A Generation Projected (2010) at the Adams State Cloyde Snook Gallery, and Blueprint (2017) at AEF. Tilahun's notable group shows include Curvature of Events, curated by Assegued at the New Master's Gallery of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in Germany (2014-2015), which traveled to the National Museum of Ethiopia in 2015. Tilahun has presented artist lectures at Independent Curators International in NYC, Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa, the National Museum of Ethiopia, AEF, Adams State, and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, among others. In 2016 Tilahun was one of ten artists longlisted for the Financial Times OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices award for visual art. Intellectually fresh and moving, Tilahun's work represents an unwavering voice of his generation.