Tschabalala Self’s first solo exhibition in Finland to open at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art

• Around the Way is an expansive year-long exhibition which is part of the museum’s InCollection series – a longstanding collaboration with Saastamoinen Foundation
• The centerpiece is Anthurium, a newly commissioned painting by Self which will join the Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection
• Around the Way transforms EMMA’s exhibition spaces with colourful displays to evoke the metropolitan landscapes of Harlem and the atmosphere of its domestic interiors

Tschabalala Self, 12pm on 145th, 2022. Taiteilijan, Pilar Corrias, London & Galerie Eva Presenhuber Zurich / Vienna luvalla. © Pierre Le Hors.
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with the Saastamoinen Foundation, is delighted to present Around the Way, US artist Tschabalala Self’s first solo exhibition in Finland. This expansive presentation is part of the InCollection series of exhibitions co-produced by the museum and the foundation. On view from 8 May 2024 until 5 May 2025, Around the Way includes nearly 20 works, including recent paintings, life-size sculptures and three new paintings created for the exhibition. 
 
Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Tschabalala Self (b. 1990) pushes the traditional boundaries of painting with her innovative use of pigments, textiles and printmaking methods, creating works that blend painting with collage. She infuses her work with her experiences as a Black American woman, deconstructing and reimagining Western portrayals of the Black body. Creating new archetypes, Self constructs immersive environments that invite viewers to engage with themes of identity and representation.
 
The title of the exhibition, Around the Way, is Black-American vernacular for the local neighbourhood, implying a sense of familiarity and belonging, or describing someone who embodies the neighborhood’s essence. The exhibition presents a multidimensional portrait of people from around the way, claiming space in their streets and homes, determining how they are seen and understood.
 
The exhibition highlights Self’s distinctive artistic approach. In the first room, visitors encounter 12pm on 145th Street, a large-scale triptych named after an intersection in Harlem. Dominated by a brick-patterned wall mural, the space features paintings embodying the bustling, layered spirit of the neighborhood. In the next gallery, the focus shifts from street views to domestic scenes that reflect the inner worlds of Self’s characters, with Anthurium as a centerpiece. Named after the anthurium plant, the work epitomizes Self’s technique of blending sewn, printed, and painted elements. The third exhibition space is dedicated to works that depict metaphorical interiority, displaying figures in their most intimate spaces.
 
Tschabalala Self says: “I am excited to share my work for the first time with audiences in Finland at the EMMA. This project in particular is very important to me as it is an ode to my hometown; Harlem, USA. All of the characters in my painting have in some shape or form been inspired by the loved ones, friends, neighbors and strangers I encountered growing up in Harlem. Around the Way hopes to show the beauty and complexity of the Black American character.’’
 
Around the Way also features scheduled screenings of Sounding Board, Self’s only performance work to date, commissioned for the Performa 2021 Biennial in New York, and captured in a video recording. Alongside Anthurium, Saastamoinen Foundation has acquired a furniture sculpture by Self, created for the Sounding Board set. This piece will be exhibited together with Self’s paintings of domestic scenes. The Sounding Board screenings will take place during the autumn of 2024 and the spring of 2025 and will also be accessible online via the museum’s digital platform, EMMA Zone.
 
Launched in 2018, the InCollection series of exhibitions presents contemporary works that provide audiences with diverse perspectives on today’s sociopolitical landscape and our collective futures. Each year, a new work is commissioned by a leading contemporary artist for Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection, and this commission forms the focal point of the artist’s solo exhibition at EMMA. The initiative allows artists to craft an exhibition tailored for EMMA’s unique architecture: designed by renowned Finnish architect Aarno Ruusuvuori, the former printworks is a classic example of 1960s concrete brutalism. Through site visits, artists become acquainted with the museum’s architecture and its forest surroundings. The collaboration allows EMMA and Saastamoinen Foundation to foster a more profound dialogue with artists, facilitating the best presentations of their work. Self is the seventh artist to participate in the series, which has also featured: Pierre Huyghe, Pilvi Takala, Chiharu Shiota, Eeva-Leena Eklund, Tatsuo Miyajima and Alicja Kwade.

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