In the colourful background of what appear to be supermarket aisles, the characters of New York artist Tschabalala Self, shine. This new exhibition entitled Bodega Run brings Manhattan’s emblematic street landscape of corner shops, to the fore. Self has kept her signature style intact and in these series, offers a mix of prints, collages and paint images blended with a 3D crate, two cats and a hand drawn wallpaper depicting a line of orange flavoured drinks bottles.
Everything is centered around the bodega, its products and people. In a city where eclecticism prevails, the bodega celebrates multiculturalism. The press release explains that those shops were mainly run at first by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans but that their ownership shifted towards Yemenites over the years, until now. Self illustrates her own idea of a Bodega, emphasizing Black body shapes among the vast array of colourful aisles of products, describing the reigning ambiance explicitly.
The artist points at the stereotypes which classify Black figures as rounded and vulgar. Females are predominant in her work although large and robust men appear from time to time. Women are mostly looking for products in lascivious positions; squatting, bending or showing off their attributes wearing minimum clothing.
I find it intricate to classify Self as a denouncer or representative as I realize that her discourse blends resignation with aggravation. This is how Black subjects are portrayed in the media to the masses which is also true for reality. reality.
To amplify her discourse for those who have never entered this kind of store, she has put up a frame of photos of an existing bodega. She goes further by accentuating the orgy of households and grocery products ranging from laundry detergent, soda bottles, and diapers.
The setting of the bodega prompts viewers to rethink the amplitude of marginalization a minority undergoes. Dwellers probably walk past them without noticing anymore.
Self also raises questions regarding bodega’s participation in the reinforcement of identity and how it affects an entire population. Throughout the exhibition, she never fails to consider various viewpoints which makes her pieces and discourse approachable. She is able to explore as an artist while contemplate as a spectator.
Bodega Run: Tschabalala Self at Pilar Corrias (7 September – 27 September 2017)