Tschabalala Self - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Tschabalala Self, 'Mista & Mrs.', Lot 2

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    T293, Rome
    Private Collection
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Rome, T293, Tschabalala Self, March 18 - May 27, 2016
    London, Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, Tschabalala Self, January 17 - March 12, 2017, pp. 59, 83 (illustrated, p. 58)
    Glasgow, Tramway, Tschabalala Self, June 3 - August 20, 2017
    New York, New Museum, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, September 27, 2017 - January 21, 2018, p. 367

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I think that when people dance and how people dance can be a way to fight back” – Tschabalala Self

    Bodies are captured in moments of dynamic movement in Tschabalala Self’s profound yet delicate works that investigate the racialized and gendered politics of the gaze through layers of canvas, sewn fabric, paint, and collage. Included in the 2017-2018 New Museum exhibition in New York, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Mista & Mrs. is from a series Self executed during a residency in Naples, in which each work portrayed various figures socializing at an imagined house party hosted by Self. In the present work, two figures composed of both richly painted and collaged elements dance together in a dynamic fashion inspired by Soul Train, a dance television program that was incredibly popular in the 1970s and 1980s and celebrated African American music culture. In its sophisticated exploration of the physical, psychological, and political sides of human interaction, Mista & Mrs. is emblematic of Self’s pioneering approach which has been celebrated in the last year at her exhibitions at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Frye Art Museum, Seattle; and MoMA PS1, New York.

    As a metaphor for the multifaceted nature of the “self,” the artist employs textiles as a means of constructing complex layers of identity for both herself and her subjects. Her choice of material, as well as her predilection for recycling and repurposing fabrics, is a tribute to her upbringing and her mother, who would use African or African-inspired cloth to stitch items for her family. “My mom would sew at home, making curtains and clothes,” Self recalled. “I use a lot of the fabric that she collected. She would also reuse things. If my sisters outgrew a pair of pants, she would turn them into skirts. I do that in my practice. Everything is a part of the space that it was created in” (Tschabalala Self, quoted in “An Individual Is Made of Many Parts: Tschabalala Self Interviewed by Sasha Bonét”, BOMB Magazine, November 20, 2018, online). Moreover, the melange of textiles in Mista & Mrs., 2016 emphasizes the myriad distinct aspects of an individual’s identity: by layering the work with different fabrics, Self impels the viewer to comprehend her subjects as intricate composites of discrete distinguishing elements, just as one understands oneself.

    Self’s figures are always depicted in movement as a mode of agency, interacting with and taking up space; in Mista & Mrs., the couple's motion is exaggerated by the extension of the man’s legs to fill the width of the canvas. “With each project, I try to further animate the body. The significance of it being animated and the body being able to move, is that through its movement it can gain a certain level of agency that corrupts the normal power dynamic of viewer and object” (Tschabalala Self, quoted in Jason Parham, “The Hypervisible Black Women of Tschabalala Self’s World", Fader, April 20, 2017, online). In their capability of moving, breathing, and dancing in similar ways as the viewer does, the figures of Mista & Mrs. reclaim their space and subvert the typical relationship between a sentient viewer and an objectified, idle subject. “Seeing the way people dance amongst each other… it’s the perfect opportunity to imagine their stories,” Self articulated. “I think that when people dance and how people dance can be a way to fight back” (Tschabalala Self, quoted in Ashton Cooper, “A Space to Dance: An Interview with Tschabalala Self", Pelican Bomb, March 14, 2016, online).

    Through its recourse to traditional craft and relationship to collage, Mista & Mrs. betrays the artist’s admiration for Romare Bearden’s portrayals of the sociocultural conditions of black quotidian life. By using the setting of a house party—an event typically considered to be one of care-free, excitable sociability—Self urges the viewer to consider the political lens through which we watch people and their bodies, an act of objectification in itself which she underscores in the exposure of the female figure’s breast. “It’s more like you imagine the subject in a painting is living their life or experiencing a moment in their existence that you have to witness. That’s the positionality I want the viewer to take in order for them to understand the significance of their relationship to the figure,” Self elucidated. “The figures, they’re not necessarily performing anything for the viewers; I want them just to be. They’re living their own lives” (Tschabalala Self, quoted in Jason Parham, “The Hypervisible Black Women of Tschabalala Self’s World", Fader, April 20, 2017, online).

  • Artist Biography

    Tschabalala Self

    American • 1990

    Harlem-born artist Tschabalala Self combines sewing, printing and painting in a singular style that speaks to her experience of contemporary black womanhood. Despite her extensive use of craft methods, Self considers herself to be a painter above all else. Her work is known for exaggerated colors and forms, allowing the personages within to “escape” from society’s narrow perceptions.

    Explaining her practice, the artist stated: “I hope to correct misconceptions propagated within and projected upon the Black body. Multiplicity and possibility are essential to my practice and general philosophy. My subjects are fully aware of their conspicuousness and are unmoved by the viewer. Their role is not to show, explain, or perform but rather ‘to be.’ In being, their presence is acknowledged and their significance felt. My project is committed to this exchange, for my own edification and for the edification of those who resemble me.”

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Mista & Mrs.

linen, fabric, paper, oil, acrylic, and Flashe on canvas
96 x 90 in. (243.8 x 228.6 cm.)
Executed in 2016.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $275,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019