Tschabalala Self (born 1990) utilizes materials in unconventional ways to subvert the status quo, creating layered, quilt-like portraits that depict Black American life through references to contemporary culture and Black America’s past. The figures in her work take up space on large pieces of paper or colorful canvases and seem to be caught in private, joyous moments: dancing with a lover, reclining on a bed, greeting a friend. These characters hold power over how they present themselves and how they are seen, exerting agency in the myth creation that surrounds Black bodies like theirs.
The fantasies and attitudes surrounding the Black female body are both accepted and rejected within my practice, and through this disorientation, new possibilities arise. I am attempting to provide alternative, and perhaps fictional explanations for the voyeuristic tendencies towards the gendered and racialized body; a body which is both exalted and abject.
- Tschabalala Self
Self’s work has been shown at the ICA Boston, Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Yuz Museum in Shanghai, Kunsthalle Duesseldorf, Haus der Kunst in Munich, Philadelphia Museum of Art, New Museum in New York, and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. She received her MFA from Yale with a focus on Painting and Printmaking and was selected for the Studio Museum AIR Program in 2019.