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Dawit L. Petros: Spazio Disponibile

September 24, 2020–May 15, 2021

UB Anderson Gallery, First Floor

Schedule Appointment


Dawit L. Petros’s art stems from his research into the complex layers of colonial histories that connect East Africa and Europe. Spazio Disponibile—Italian for “Available Space”—is an exhibition of photo, video, and sound that scrutinizes historical gaps in memory, particularly that of modern Italy. Alluding to vacant advertising sections that appeared in Rivista Coloniale, a widely circulated early twentieth-century magazine and the official organ of the Italian colonial project, the title is also a reference to the colonial gaze that viewed the lands of Africa as available space to occupy and exploit.

Dawit L. Petros (born 1972, Asmara, Eritrea) lives and works in Chicago and Montreal. He received his MFA in Visual Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, Boston; a BFA in Photography from Concordia University, Montreal; a BFA in History from the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon; and completed the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York. Recent exhibitions have been held at the 13th Havana Biennial, Matanzas, Cuba (2019); Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca (2019); Bamako Encounters Biennale, Mali (2017); Dakar Biennale, Senegal (2018); Prospect.4, New Orleans (2017); and the Walther Collection Project Space, New York (2016). Petros is an assistant professor at the Department of Photography, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition is organized and circulated by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, sponsored by The TD Ready Commitment and supported by Lead Donor Lonti Ebers. Additional support for the tour is provided by Canada Council for the Arts and The Gilder.


Exhibition Guide

A map of present-day Italy and the Horn of Africa including Italy, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and the Red Sea.

Dawit L. Petros: Spazio Disponibile is an exhibition that stems from years of research on Italian colonialism, a subject that requires careful historical considerations and ongoing reflections on current events. To contextualize the exhibition, the students of Italian 422: Modern Italian Literature, taught by Associate Professor Laura Chiesa in Fall 2020, have prepared four relevant research reports on subjects directly explored by Petros in the exhibition:

1. Africa Orientale Italiana (Italian East Africa);

2. Rivista Coloniale (Colonial Magazine);

3. Instituto Luce;

4. La Teleferica (Asmara-Massawa Cableway).

Additionally, Jillian Daniels, UB Art Galleries Student Curatorial Assistant, has contributed maps, a timeline, and a list of keywords to help frame these topics. The culmination of a semester-long student engagement, this guide helps deepen our appreciation of the artist’s work and inquiry, as well as offer entry points for a more profound understanding of the state of nationhood in Italy and East Africa today.

UB Art Galleries gratefully acknowledges the generous participation of Laura Chiesa, Associate Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; her students Maria Angela, Brianna Badalamenti, Leonardo Camerucci, Sabrina Gramuglia, and Adrian Halvorsen; and Jillian Daniels, Student Curatorial Assistant.