Wosene Worke Kosrof American / Ethiopian, b. 1950


For me, painting has become an intense process of ‘dialoguing’ with the script images, exploring the versatility and playfulness of their surfaces and interiors, dissecting their ‘skeletal’ structures, observing the ways they move, interact, and intersect. I elongate, distort, invert, dissect, and recombine their shapes and volumes, and turn them inside out to discover their moods, tempers, and personalities. On canvas, the script images are divested of literal meanings and become gesture, dance, music, movement, and stories of the human drama.

Born 1950 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Wosene Worke Kosrof trained at the city’s School of Fine Arts, completing his BFA with distinction in 1972. Emigrating to the U.S. in 1978 and enabled by a Ford Foundation Talent Scholarship, Wosene earned his MFA in 1980 at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Encouraged by his advisor, AfriCOBRA artist Jeff Donaldson, to explore his native Amharic script as an artistic idiom, Wosene was part of an initial wave of artists drawn to Howard that created new political and cultural perceptions of the diasporic nature of African art in contemporary artmaking in America.  Since 1995, Wosene (his professional name) lives and works in Berkeley, California.


Over the ensuing several decades, Wosene has exhibited his work in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Solo museum exhibitions of his work have included the Keith Haring Museum of Japan, Yamanashi, Japan (2017); Fleming Museum, U. of Vermont, Burlington, (2011); National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa (2010); Mexican Heritage Museum, San Jose, CA (2006); The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ (2004); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY (2003); Folkens Museum Etnografiska, Stockholm, Sweden (2000); Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (1987), among others. His work has been featured in other museum exhibitions: the Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio U., Athens, OH (2016); Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (2015); Sharjah Art Museum Calligraphy Biennial, Sharjah, UAE (2014); Cantor Museum, Stanford U., Palo Alto, CA (2013); Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA (2011); Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA (2009 & 2006); Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC (2007 & 2003); Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2005); and the Whitechapel Gallery, London, England (1995), among others. Gallery exhibitions have included Skoto Gallery, New York, NY; Hoshigaoka Gallery, Kochi, Japan; Majlis Gallery, Dubai, UAE; Gallery of African Art, London, England; Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans, LA; Loft Galeria, Puerto Vallarta, MX; Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Parish Gallery, Washington, DC; Bomani Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Paul Mahder Gallery, Healdsburg, CA; Lori Austin Gallery, Sebastopol, CA; and Spirits in Stone Galleries, CA, among others.


His works are held in the public collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa; The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh/Durham, NC; Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; Völkerkunde Museum, Zürich, Switzerland; Howard University, Washington, DC; Krannert Art Museum, Champaign/Urbana, IL; United Nations, New York, NY; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Rockefeller Collection, New York, NY; U.S. Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other institutional, corporate, and private collections internationally.


Recent publications include art catalogues WordPlay: The World of Wosene’s Art (Nakamura Keith Haring Collection, Yamanashi, Japan (2017), and WordPlay: The Life of Script in Paintings and Sculptures by Wosene Worke Kosrof (National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, 2010), among others. Discussion of his work has been featured in new publications, including Pepe Karmel’s text, Abstract Art: A Global History, (2020); Richard B. Woodward, et al, The Arts of Africa: Studying and Conserving the Collection – Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2020); and the soon to be released Phaidon publication, African Artists (2021).