Tschabalala Self

Born 1990 in Harlem, New York. Lives and works in New York and New Haven.

Tschabalala Self builds a singular style from the syncretic use of both painting and printmaking to explore ideas about the black female body. The artist constructs exaggerated depictions of female bodies using a combination of sewn, printed, and painted materials, traversing different artistic and craft traditions. The exaggerated biological characteristics of her figures reflect Self’s own experiences and cultural attitudes toward race and gender. “The fantasies and attitudes surrounding the black female body are both accepted and rejected within my practice, and through this disorientation, new possibilities arise,” Self explains. “I am attempting to provide alternative, and perhaps fictional, explanations for the voyeuristic tendencies towards the gendered and racialised body; a body which is both exalted and abject.”

Self’s abstract collage-like canvases include elements to construct multidimensional renditions of her subjects. “The images all start from a drawing. And from that drawing I try to build a body or build the features of the subject I’m creating...I think that they are really sincerely built bit by bit.” The accumulation of different shapes and material textures express the disparities that exist within individuals. In Self’s words: “One individual having many parts. One individual being made from lots of different distinct elements. So the way the work is actually made forms how it is meant to be understood. A lot of the hope contained by the figures comes from how they are made as compositional decisions, and their scenarios add more complexity.”

Recent and current exhibitions include: By My Self, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (2021); Beyond the Black Atlantic, Hannover Kunstverein, Hannover (2020); Radical Figures, Whitechapel, London (2020); Out of Body, ICA, Boston (2020); Thigh High, Pilar Corrias, London (2019); Tschabalala Self, Art Omi, Ghent New York (2019); MOOD: Studio Museum Artists in Residence, MoMA PS1, New York (2019); Bodega Run, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2019); Tschabalala Self, Frye Art Museum, Seattle (2019); Bodega Run, Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2018); The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville (2018); Bodega Run, Pilar Corrias, London (2017); Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, New Museum, New York (2017); Tschabalala Self, Tramway, Glasgow (2017); Tschabalala Self, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, London (2017); Desire, Moore Building, Miami (2016); The Function, T293, Naples (2016); A Constellation, Studio Museum Harlem, Harlem (2015); Tropicana, The Cabin, Los Angeles (2015).


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