ICA artist shows a sense of Self in new exhibit

Tschabalala Self’s latest and largest exhibit “Tschabalala Self: Out of Body” has come to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). The exhibit focuses on Self’s view of the world and the African American body, which she presents through pieces of art that feature multiple mediums.

The artist explains on the exhibit wall the theme of her art; “you are the sum of your experiences, but you also absorb … all of the different ideas and experiences of others. My process mimics this phenomenon.”

The exhibit portrays Self’s perception of the world growing up. All of the subjects are much larger than the viewer, including the two sculptures that show large body parts. This makes the audience feel small. Viewers are transported into scenes from Self’s childhood and are able to feel whatever she felt in that respective moment. Some pieces have a sense of lethargy, or even sexuality.

To make bodies out of textures is a captivating concept. Self takes fabrics and applies them to the perfect place of the body it is meant to represent. The use of such fabrics gives viewers the sensation of feeling the art, although they aren’t actually touching the pieces.

Self used a process called collagraphy, in which the artist presses an inked plate that contains various materials onto a canvas. By using both fabrics and paint, the eye is immediately drawn to whatever subject is made with materials such as cloth and string. The main subject is always easy to focus on, even in a painting with multiple subjects.

Sarah Turley / Journal Staff

Self portrays her body as an ever changing presence she must rebuild each day.  The perception of African American identities are often represented through the “other gaze,” which the artist shows through simple shaped silhouettes that contrast the detailed main subjects of the exhibit.

According to Self, humans reconstruct who they are every day with the choices they make, yet women change who they are more often and  more quickly than men. A woman’s personification is defined by more characteristics than a man’s. Self is able to encapsulate just how exhausting it can be becoming a woman and how your view of the world can change.

“Tschabalala Self: Out of Body” can be seen at the ICA, located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA from Jan. 20 to July 5, 2020.