Two Palms is pleased to present a new body of silkscreens and three-dimensional cast paper works from Tschabalala Self's ongoing series Bodega Run. Working across various media, Tschabalala Self explores the implicit politicisation and sexualisation of Black bodies through a self-reflexive lens. Through the depiction of characters with active histories, psychologies and desires, her practice functions as a subversion of ethno-cultural stereotyping. With Bodega Run, Self expands her approach to create dynamic, rounded and multi-dimensional characters out of the items and experiences that exist within the infamous New York corner stores.
In Central Harlem, the area of New York City in which the artist was born and raised, local bodegas are microcosms of cross-cultural exchange. With the demographic changes that have occurred across the city in recent years, bodega ownership has shifted from Puerto Rican and Dominican to predominantly Yemeni, with these shops continuing to service primarily Black and Latino customers. The bodega's existence, like the Black, Latino and Yemeni communities that inhabit New York City, is rooted in exclusion and therefore, has become a space for marginalized communities to organize and create their own local exchange economies.
Bodegas emerged with the arrival and settlement of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York and have traditionally been owned and operated by various communities of color. The Spanish word for shop, 'bodega', has become a colloquialism for the small, family run corner stores seen all over the city. Found primarily in Black and Latino neighborhoods and often occupying the main intersections of these areas, the bodega has become a geographic emblem of Manhattan's diaspora.
Bodegas sell a wide selection and an often-multifarious array of products. As stores that are operated by people of color to serve people of color, the bodega has become an articulation of its neighborhood’s identity. Self’s new cast paper works are an investigation into the social, political and economic implications of these corner stores through an exploration of the products they sell and their aesthetic organization. Utilizing a technique developed at Two Palms over the course of two years, Self molds paper into the products you might find on a bodega’s shelf and arranges them into visually intriguing groupings that offer commentaries on the people buying and selling these products.
Four silkscreened images offer similar windows into the buying habits of the bodega's clientele. Scratch-off lottery tickets are paired with rolling papers, Nyquil with pre-paid phone cards, and a seemingly endless supply of Orange Crush soda marches off the paper. Each image is printed in 10 variations, unique in its background color or in the colors of the objects.
Selected works from Tschabalala Self's Bodega Run series will be on view at the Swiss Institute in New York City January 11 through January 13, 2024. The exhibition marks the publication of Tschabalala Self: Bodega Run, an anthology of nine newly commissioned essays from leading writers and critics exploring the artist's series of the same name. Ranging from poetry, Afrofuturism, fiction and family history to political and social criticism, the essays delve into the complex consumer/merchant dynamics of New York’s metropolitan culture, and the bodega’s potential as a radical site of resistance from racial, gendered, and diasporic perspectives.