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b. 1990, USA

Tschabalala Self Biography

American artist Tschabalala Self creates paintings, prints, sculptures, and animations that open up a range of topics, including attitudes towards the gendered and racialised body. Self's depictions of the body are made up of exaggerated shapes, pieced together using processes such as sewing, stitching, and printing, referencing craft and artistic traditions. Self has explained that these accumulations of shapes, which are first conceived through drawing, reference the reality of 'one individual being made from lots of different distinct parts.'

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This plurality challenges singular views towards the black female body, reclaiming it within a space where new narratives can be formed. Self, who was born in Hamilton Heights in Harlem in 1990, draws much of her imagery from her life experiences. The resulting scenes exist within half-real, half-imaginary spaces that reference characteristic elements of New York, such as bodegas—small corner stores that were originally set up by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in the 1940s and 50s. In 2018, Self's exhibition, Bodega Run, in Shanghai at the Yuz Museum included a series of paintings that focus on the role of bodegas as social spaces for people of colour, and where wealth disparity is rendered visible through the sale of cheap, processed or canned foods that can be purchased in exchange for food stamps. By focusing on bodegas, Self makes broader statements about wealth disparity in the United States. As the artist has stated, 'The bodega is and was a space created for people of color by people of color, to serve the needs of communities of color. A hood menagerie, the bodega is emblematic of black metropolitan life.'

Urban life has been a key focus throughout Tschabalala Self's practice, visible in her 2020 solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, titled Out of Body. The exhibition contained paintings and sculptures featuring her signature 'avatars', each one an imaginary inhabitant of her hometown, Harlem. Representing figures that are predominantly female in her practice, Self expresses that the 'fantasies and attitudes surrounding the Black female body are both accepted and rejected' in order to represent 'a body which is both exalted and abject.'

Self, who received her BA from Bard College in 2012, followed by an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art, cites her mother—who sewed as a hobby and ran a trade programme at Bronx Community College—as a key influence on both her formal and conceptual approach to making art. Her use of textiles is connected to her focus on Black female bodies, 'which have a variety of hair textures, tones, and forms', she has explained. More recently, the artist has transitioned from representing lone figures to pairing her avatars to 'define the boundaries of their personality and the extent of their community.'

Tschabalala Self has exhibited at institutions around the world, including Frye Art Museum in Seattle (Tschabalala Self, 2019); Art Omi Ghent (Tschabalala Self, 2019); Hammer Museum (Bodega Run, 2019); Tramway, Glasgow (Tschabalala Self, 2017); and Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art in London (Tschabalala Self, 2017). Her work has been presented in numerous group exhibitions, also, including Thread at Long Beach Museum of Art (2019); The Big Sleep 4th Biennial of Artists at Haus de Kunst in Munich (2019); Present Tense: Recent Gifts of Contemporary Art at Philadelphia Museum (2019); and Prospect 2019 at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2019), to name a few. Further, Self was a recipient of the Studio Museum AIR Residency in 2018, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 2017.

Biography by Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2020

Exhibition views: Group Show, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich (12 June–18 July 2020). © the artists. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich. / New York. Photo: Stefan Altenburger

Tschabalala Self Featured Artworks

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Snake by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfSnake, 2020Acrylic, pigment, fabric, silk, thread and painted canvas on canvas
213.5 x 183 x 4 cm
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Galerie Eva Presenhuber
Black Hand by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfBlack Hand, 2020Fabric, silk, painted canvas and acrylic on canvas
172.7 x 172.7 cm
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Pilar Corrias
Pop by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfPop, 2017Acrylic, watercolour, flashe, crayon, coloured pencil, oil pastel, pencil, hand-coloured photocopy, hand-coloured canvas on canvas
243.8 x 213.4 cm
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Pilar Corrias
Out of Body by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfOut of Body, 2020Quilted fabric
118 x 100 cm
Pilar Corrias Contact Gallery
Lenox by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfLenox, 2019Fabric, ribbon, painted canvas, flashe and acrylic on canvas
172.7 x 127 cm
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Pilar Corrias
Pump by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfPump, 2019Fabric, painted canvas, painted paper oil and acrylic on canvas
172.7 x 127 cm
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Pilar Corrias
Seated by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfSeated, 2019Fabric, painted canvas, painted paper, lace, flashe and acrylic on canvas
172.7 x 127 cm
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Pilar Corrias
Leotard by Tschabalala Self contemporary artwork
Tschabalala SelfLeotard, 2019Fabric, painted canvas acrylic on canvas
243.8 x 213.4 cm
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Pilar Corrias

Tschabalala Self Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Group Show at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
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12 June–18 July 2020 Group Show Galerie Eva PresenhuberMaag Areal, Zürich
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Rock My Soul at Victoria Miro, London
Closed
2 October–2 November 2019 Group Exhibition Rock My Soul Victoria MiroWharf Road, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Tschabalala Self, Thigh High at Pilar Corrias, London
Closed
2 October–9 November 2019 Tschabalala Self Thigh High Pilar CorriasLondon

Tschabalala Self Represented By

Galerie Eva Presenhuber contemporary art gallery in Maag Areal, Zürich, Switzerland Galerie Eva Presenhuber Zurich, New York
Pilar Corrias contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Pilar Corrias London

Tschabalala Self In Ocula Magazine

Tate and MoMA Are ‘Playing Catch Up’ Collecting African Art Ocula News Tate and MoMA Are ‘Playing Catch Up’ Collecting African Art Marrakech, 25 February 2020

A spate of new residencies aims to redress the underrepresentation of African artists in the West.

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Who is Auction Sensation Amoako Boafo? Ocula News Who is Auction Sensation Amoako Boafo? London, 21 February 2020

A portrait by the artist from Ghana obliterated estimates in London last week.

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London Auction Sales Down Despite $30m Hockney Splash Ocula News London Auction Sales Down Despite $30m Hockney Splash London, 18 February 2020

The third highest price fetched by Hockney at auction contributed to over US $500 million in sales.

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Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown Ocula Report Shanghai Art Exhibitions to See: The Lowdown By Sam Gaskin

There is no official Shanghai Art Week, but the term has nevertheless entered the lexicon of the city's contemporary art community. It's especially apt this year, with the firmly established West Bund Art Fair (8–11 November 2018) and Art021 (9–11 November 2018) taking place the same week that the 12th Shanghai Biennale opens at the Power Station...

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Tschabalala Self In Related Press

Tschabalala Self’s Pantheon of Vexed Interiority Related Press Tschabalala Self’s Pantheon of Vexed Interiority 10 March 2020, Frieze

Few notions so frustrate the liberal imagination as that of the 'body'. Despite its rhetoric dominating our literature and visual culture, the term prompts a sense of corporeal ensnarement, unease and dysmorphia. However, to confront the phrase 'the black body' from one's own perspective is to know quite another sensation: certain identification...

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Artist Tschabalala Self Explains the Art and Commerce of Designing Her Own Louis Vuitton Bag Related Press Artist Tschabalala Self Explains the Art and Commerce of Designing Her Own Louis Vuitton Bag 3 July 2019, W Magazine

If you're just finding out about the artist Tschabalala Self—who, at 29, already has already established both industry cred and a cult following—it's more likely than not a little late for you to acquire some of her work for yourself.

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Tschabalala Self’s Avatars of Black Womanhood Related Press Tschabalala Self’s Avatars of Black Womanhood 9 March 2019, Hyperallergic

SEATTLE — Scraps of bright turquoise, yellow, and salmon fabric encircle a swatch of denim imprinted with a building's image; this delineates a figure's thigh. It is part of up Bellyphat (2016), a textile-and-paint collage by artist Tschabalala Self. Elsewhere in the work, black, pink, and rosewood fabric swatches define the figure's face...

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