TSCHABALALA SELF | MISTA & MRS. | NEW MUSEUM

The New Museum’s new show, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, is many things; it’s large, impressive, important, exhausting, and uneven, just to name a few. But the mixed-media works of Tschabalala Self were among the most powerful and dynamic in the whole show. Considering the company, that’s quite a claim.

Tschabalala Self finished her MFA at Yale in 2015 and continues to maintain a studio in the Elm City, as it’s affectionately known. A near half-dozen of her large works, mostly from 2016, grace the walls in Trigger’s first room. The canvases immediately struck me, and I spent much time with them, trying to meet each one on its own terms, and trying to understand what it was that made them so compelling.

Threadbare and cut snatches of fabric are sewn one atop another. Some of the stitching, often in offset colors, is functional, but much of it is formal, providing countour lines, or shading, or, as it does in Mane, helping to define the veins and arteries that press against taut, sinewy flesh.

The effect created through forming distinct anatomical parts with distinct snatches of fabric is powerful. The New Museum’s catalog refers to these bodies as “grotesque”, which I believe they are using to signify non-normative, and thus queer. I suppose the strange forshortening of limbs and the disorienting scale of certain body parts could be thought of as creating the grotesque, but for me another, related term comes to mind: not the grotesque but the carnivalesque–an artform that actively seeks to subvert a dominant style or trope, and hopes to bring it down through both humor and intelligent reinvention.

“My current body of work is concerned with the iconographic significance of the Black female body in contemporary culture,” state’s Self on her website. I do consider these something like carnivalesque portraits, and ones that achieve both what Self is now seeking–an investigation into the Black body’s “iconographic” significiance– while also challenging an entire genre. I found myslef thinking about Wangechi Mutu’s work while I examined these, but honestly, Self’s work has so much more vibrancy, I think they’re much more interesting and impactful than anything Mutu has done in quite some time. I’m excited to see where the young artist goes next.

 

Four on the Floor #4

Albrecht Dürer | Tschabalala Self | Hayv Kahraman | Sarah Mehoyas

Tschabalala Self, Mista & Mrs, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

Tschabalala Self, Mane, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

Tschabalala Self, Loner, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

Tschabalala Self, Mista & Mrs, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

TSCHABALALA SELF | MISTA & MRS. | NEW MUSEUM

The New Museum’s new show, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, is many things; it’s large, impressive, important, exhausting, and uneven, just to name a few. But the mixed-media works of Tschabalala Self were among the most powerful and dynamic in the whole show. Considering the company, that’s quite a claim.

Tschabalala Self finished her MFA at Yale in 2015 and continues to maintain a studio in the Elm City, as it’s affectionately known. A near half-dozen of her large works, mostly from 2016, grace the walls in Trigger’s first room. The canvases immediately struck me, and I spent much time with them, trying to meet each one on its own terms, and trying to understand what it was that made them so compelling.

Tschabalala Self, Mane, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

Threadbare and cut snatches of fabric are sewn one atop another. Some of the stitching, often in offset colors, is functional, but much of it is formal, providing countour lines, or shading, or, as it does in Mane, helping to define the veins and arteries that press against taut, sinewy flesh.

The effect created through forming distinct anatomical parts with distinct snatches of fabric is powerful. The New Museum’s catalog refers to these bodies as “grotesque”, which I believe they are using to signify non-normative, and thus queer. I suppose the strange forshortening of limbs and the disorienting scale of certain body parts could be thought of as creating the grotesque, but for me another, related term comes to mind: not the grotesque but the carnivalesque–an artform that actively seeks to subvert a dominant style or trope, and hopes to bring it down through both humor and intelligent reinvention.

Tschabalala Self, Loner, 2016. Courtesy of The New Museum.

“My current body of work is concerned with the iconographic significance of the Black female body in contemporary culture,” state’s Self on her website. I do consider these something like carnivalesque portraits, and ones that achieve both what Self is now seeking–an investigation into the Black body’s “iconographic” significiance– while also challenging an entire genre. I found myslef thinking about Wangechi Mutu’s work while I examined these, but honestly, Self’s work has so much more vibrancy, I think they’re much more interesting and impactful than anything Mutu has done in quite some time. I’m excited to see where the young artist goes next.

Four on the Floor #4

Albrecht Dürer | Tschabalala Self | Hayv Kahraman | Sarah Mehoyas

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