Tschabalala Self is a Voice of Her Generation

Tschabalala Self is a Voice of Her Generation

This it-painter of female bodies finds inspiration in urban life.

This it-painter of female bodies finds inspiration in urban life.

Text: Alexandra Pechman

This interview appears in the pages of V114. Order your copy at shop.vmagazine.com today!

Tschabalala Self’s mixed-media works have been everywhere, from exhibitions at the New Museum and the Museum of Sex to the fair booths of Frieze New York and Art Basel in Switzerland. But when it comes to her subjects, often abstracted black and female bodies, the 28-year-old, Harlem-born artist thinks locally; her multimedia series Bodega Run depicts the aesthetics of a typical New York City bodega. “If I was to meet or see one of my characters in the real world, where would I see them?” Self says of the series. “I really felt like it was time for me to add a new level of complexity to my work and tell a larger story about where my gures come from.”

Self describes bodegas as “emblematic of Harlem and neighborhoods like it,” a lens through which to explore topics such as access, value, and productivity. The series, she adds, “is a way to think about the body from the inside out.” Aptly, this year, Self is participating in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s prestigious artist-in-residence program. She also has a solo show slated to open at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai this fall. Self received her B.A. from Bard College and her M.F.A. from Yale, then had her first solo show, ”Bodega Run,” at Pilar Corrias Gallery in London in 2017. A slew of residencies have also taken her to Detroit and to Naples. While her practice is rooted in exploring the complexities of where she grew up, her travels have more firmly solidified the personal aspect of her work.

“These kinds of environments exist all over the world, but they still exist for the same kinds of communities,” Self says. “It made me more critical of the space in New York. It made me more thankful for it.”

Self also creates animations, sculptures, and installations for many of her shows. For “Bodega Run” at Corrias, she turned the gallery itself into a pseudo-bodega, citing the work of David Hammons as a reference point. But painting, for Self, is what ultimately creates the stakes for her work: “The paintings create the environment for all this action to exist. I feel like this project couldn’t exist without [them]. The paintings are what hinge everything together.” 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY CYLE SUESZ

Credits: PHOTOGRAPHY BY CYLE SUESZ

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