Dawit L. Petros

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The Power Plant presents a new body of work by Dawit L. Petros


Born in Eritrea, Canadian artist Dawit L. Petros explores relationships between African histories and European modernism, investigating artistic, geographical and cultural boundaries using photography and installations. Petros takes a variety of formal approaches ranging from documentary observation to carefully staged constructions.

His most recent major project, The Stranger’s Notebook (2016), was the result of a fourteen-month journey across parts of Africa and Europe, through which images of wrecked ships, seascapes and anonymous migrants examined the transformation of the Mediterranean Sea from a site of cultural exchange between Spain and North Africa into an impenetrable barrier. He is best known for photographs in which his subjects hold up mirrors in front of their faces, obscuring their identities and reflecting instead the space occupied by the viewer and the transitory landscapes surrounding them.

At The Power Plant, Petros will present a new body of work investigating the vestiges of Italian colonialism in architecture and infrastructure in the Horn of Africa and North America. The project reflects on Italian migration to North America in the period between the two World Wars (during which around 40,000 Italians came to Canada alone) in relation to contemporary stories of migration, engaging a critical reading of African modernist histories of mobility and European colonialism.

Dawit L. Petros (b. 1972 Asmara, Eritrea) lives and works in Chicago and Montreal. He completed the Whitney Independent Study Program and holds an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a BFA in Photography from Concordia University and a BA in History from the University of Saskatchewan. Recent exhibition venues include Huis Marseille Museum of Photography, Amsterdam, NL (2018); Medina Galerie Mediatheque, Bamako, Mali (2017); Kansas City Art Institute’s H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO (2016); Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University, Athens, OH (2016); Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC (2014); National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC (2013); Durban Art Gallery in Durban, SA (2011); Lianzhou International Photo Festival in Lianzhou, China (2011); Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, ON (2011); and Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, MI (2008). His works have been recognized with awards including an Independent Study Fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art, an Art Matters Fellowship, Canada Council for the Arts Production Grants, and Artist Residencies at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The McColl Center for Visual Art, and Addis Ababa Photo Fest. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.