Ato Ribeiro works in a variety of media: sculpture, installation, drawing and printmaking. Born in Philadelphia in 1989, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Accra, Ghana. The articulation of his West African heritage and his African American identity is central to his art. This is evident in his wooden assemblages that reference both Ghanian strip-woven kente cloth and Black quilting traditions of the American South that were used as a symbolic language in the Underground Railroad, guiding slaves to freedom in the North.
Ribeiro works with discarded pieces of wood—a material that he defines as conceptually paralleling the way individuals of African heritage have been treated throughout history. He then pieces these precious scraps together into geometric patterns that are recognizable as a language and even hint at narrative but confound the viewer because their specific code and meanings are not necessarily decipherable. As the artist has explained, “My wooden kente and quilt works, mixed media installations and prints provide educational opportunities to seek out new points of reference, while preserving layers of African cultural heritage and varying ethnic perspectives.”
Ribeiro received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2017 and his BA from Morehouse College in 2012. He has been awarded a number of prestigious residencies and awards, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCa Residency (2021), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2018), the Küenstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin through the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Emerging Artist Award, the Santa Fe Art Institute (2017) and the Ox-Bow LeRoy Neiman Foundation Fellowship, Saugatuck (2017).