Nestled in a corner of the Design District’s recently opened Paradise Plaza, past multistory boutiques and an upscale gelateria, and behind a row of trees strung with tinsel stands the new home of Thierry Goldberg Gallery. Formerly of New York, the gallery made its way to Miami, where it found a space just a few doors down from Goop Gift. But don’t let the luxurious surroundings fool you. The gallery's inaugural exhibition, Tschabalala Self’s first Miami solo show, “Sour Patch,” is inspired by bodegas.
The 27-year-old Self has already been compared to 62-year-old Kerry James Marshall for her portrayals of black figures. Mixing collage, assemblage, and painting, the young artist has created a body of work that addresses gender, class, and race.
She made a splash locally during Art Basel 2016, when her work was displayed in "Desire," a joint show by Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch, curated by Diana Windmaer Picasso. Shown alongside art-world heavyweights such as Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, Self was "without question the hit," Deitch told W magazine.
Her burgeoning success belies humble roots. The New York native works out of her home and studio in New Haven, Connecticut, where she studied at the Yale School of Art, but she still commutes to her childhood home in Hamilton Heights, a Harlem neighborhood whose influence pervades her work.
In her exhibition at Thierry Goldberg, Self re-creates those same corner shops and ethnic markets that pepper her hometown. The gallery space is even adorned with neon signs and multicolored checkerboard flooring, reflecting a bodega’s festive vibe.
Yet Self’s work isn’t as much about the bodega as a location but rather as a meeting place filled with colorful patrons of all shapes and sizes. Small collages of ice-cream containers, soda bottles, and cleaning supplies mix with her trademark figurative assemblages. Like Marshall, Self claims to fashion avatars as stand-ins for herself rather than portray characters drawn from real life.
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In Milk Chocolate (2017), for example, she renders a naked woman shown squatting from behind while clutching a Hershey bar. It’s both a statement of representations of black bodies in art and a jab to glib associations between sexuality and commercialism.
The exhibition is particularly ironic given its surroundings: located in a gallery that sits among stores by international fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Rick Owens. And it’s that same sort of tongue-in-cheek sensibility that ties together the wide range of works in Self’s oeuvre.
“Sour Patch.” Through Sunday, January 14, at Thierry Goldberg Gallery, 151 NE 42nd St., Miami; 646-833-8978; thierrygoldberg.com. Admission is free.