Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Gallery Watch: Cotton Mouth by Tschabalala Self

 Text and photos by Clare Gemima

Cotton Mouth by Tschabalala Self
Eva Presenhuber, 39 Great Jones St.

Cotton Mouth presents as a formal critique on projected viewings (or constructions) of Black bodies in America. This show is physically and figuratively in your face, hitting the nail on the head with what needs to be addressed socially and artistically right now. 

The demand of this politically charged work is potent with its use of scale and installation method especially. Cotton Mouth is striking, hard-hitting and an exciting insight into the trajectory of young artist Tschabalala Self (1990, Harlem). This is her first solo show at the gallery. 

As you walk into the beautiful space that is Eva Presenhuber on the historically rich Great Jones, you will quickly find yourself surrounded by mixed-media paintings made out of materials such as fabric, thread, charmeuse, silk, velvet, paper, pigment, acrylic and canvas that completely dominate the space.

Cotton Mouth also features sculptures, drawings and an audio work spread across the two gallery floors.
The title of the show and Self’s making process simultaneously speak to slavery, and the mutually exclusive relationship that cotton has with the African-American experience. 

The act of these characters stitched and painted into the canvas by hand carry an emotional and personal significance to Self, while also speaking to the historical devastations of Black slave labor in America. Each constructed character holds power over their self-presentation and external perception unapologetically, an act of power that Black people in America are denied daily.

The work is so hard not to touch based on the array of different fabrics used and sewn together. What was hard for me to believe is that through stitching and constructing, Self has made characters that undeniably hold their own presence and somehow even look different in age and personified life experience. 

Self has impeccably built each and everyone of these characters from scratch whether it be Lil Mama 2 with her plaid and tulle fringed pants or the two lovers in Sprewell that kiss in front of an incredible photo transferred TV. One of the characters even wears the artist’s actual jeans. 

Self’s practice marries her interests in the psychological and emotional effects of projected fantasy with her sustained articulation of Black life and embodiment. Seeing every hand stitch in Self’s work shows the viewer how painstaking and timely it is to create. The labor in each stitch holds affection, memory and protection according to the artist, and I feel as though the painted hands directly applied to the gallerys walls touch on this too. 

Cotton Mouth by Tschabalala Self is showing at Eva Presenhuber until Dec. 19 

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Clare Gemima is a visual artist from New Zealand. New-ish to the East Village, she spends her time as an artist assistant and gallery go-er, hungry to explore what's happening in her local art world. You can find her work here: 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

art report is a great addition! keep it up! thank you!