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Tschabalala Self Gets a Must-See ICA Boston Show

  • Left Tschabalala Self - Origin Right Tschabalala Self - Lite
January 28, 2020
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

In recent times, various emerging artists have been exploring the contemporary notion of identity to critically reflect the social and political mechanisms that reflect on their everyday life. In light of the resurgence of racism on the global scale, these voices revisit history to show the horrific effects of colonialism and the way racism became institutionalized.

There are numerous examples of artists dealing with this topic, Tschabalala Self being one of them. Although her approach does not visually evoke uneasy associations regarding racially motivated methods of exclusion, it does point a specific strategy based on the cultural heritage of African Americans.

Self’s vibrant works gained quite a critical attention in the past few years, so it is no wonder that her solo exhibition is currently on display at The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, under the title Tschabalala Self: Out of Body.

Left Tschabalala Self - Ol Bay Right Tschabalala Self - Out of Body
Left: Tschabalala Self – Ol’Bay, 2019. Painted canvas, fabric, digital rendering on canvas, hand-colored photocopy, photocopy, paper, Flashe, gouache, and acrylic on canvas, 96 × 84 inches (243.8 × 213.4 cm). Courtesy Tschabalala Self Studio / Right: Tschabalala Self – Out of Body, 2015. Oil and fabric collage on canvas, 72 × 60 inches (182.9 × 152.4 cm) Acquavella Galleries

About The Artist

Tschabalala Self certainly belongs to a new generation of artists challenging the legacy of figurative painting by introducing African American narratives that were marginal in the visual arts for a long time. Her intriguing paintings are based on the collaging principle; they are constructed out of different elements such as manually printed and found textiles, and techniques ranging from sewing to printmaking.

Self’s work is infused with stories of black urban lives and bodies that come from the artist’s personal experience of growing up in Harlem. The feminist perspective is also present in her practice as she is using crafts traditionally associated with women, and references (although not explicitly) to the works of female artists.

Left Tschabalala Self - Loner Right Tschabalala Self - Racer
Left: Tschabalala Self – Loner, 2016. Painted canvas, Flashe, acrylic, and colored pencil on canvas, 84 × 80 inches (213.4 × 203.2 cm). Collection of Craig Robins / Right: Tschabalala Self – Racer, 2018. Acrylic, watercolor, Flashe, crayon, colored pencil, fabric, and hand-colored canvas on canvas, 96 × 84 inches (243.8 × 213.4 cm). Collection of Nancy and David Frej

Transfixed By Contemporaneity

The current presentation features both Self’s recent paintings and sculptures and the new works made for this occasion.

The visitors can experience the artworks depicting singular figures, couplings, and everyday social situations inspired by the artist’s vision of Black urban environment; all of them are a result of the artist’s exploration of exaggerated forms of embodiment and expressions that underline the human figure’s capacity to represent imagined memories, states, and emotions.

Left Tschabalala Self - Bellyphat Right Tschabalala Self - Cop
Left: Tschabalala Self – Bellyphat, 2016. Painted canvas, fabric, oil, acrylic, and Flashe on canvas, 80 × 60 inches (203.2 × 152.4 cm). Collection of Craig Robins / Right: Tschabalala Self – Chop, 2016. Painted canvas, Flashe, acrylic, and colored pencil on canvas, 40 × 30 inches (101.6 × 76.2 cm). Easton Capital/John Friedman Collection

Tschabalala Self at ICA

This exhibition curated by Ellen Tani and Ruth Erickson tends to show how Tschabalala Self perceives the black bodies in the contemporary moment while posing various questions concerning everybody’s basic human rights of expressing themselves regardless of race, fate, and sexuality.

Tschabalala Self: Out of Body will be on display at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA until 5 July 2020.

Featured image: Left: Tschabalala Self – Origin, 2018. Oil, Flashe, acrylic, and fabric on canvas, 84 × 72 inches (213.4 × 182.9 cm). Courtesy Tschabalala Self Studio / Right: Tschabalala Self – Lite, 2018. Acrylic, Flashe, milk paint, fabric, and gum on canvas, 96 x 84 inches (243.8 x 213.4 cm). Acquired through the generosity of the Acquisitions Circle, Tristin and Martin Mannion, Rob Larsen, Patrick Planeta and Santiago Varela, and anonymous donors. All images courtesy ICA Boston.