Tomashi Jackson Probes American Democracy in Her Multi-Layered Work

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Tomashi Jackson’s mid-career survey “Across the Universe” at the ICA Philadelphia probes the histories of culturally resonant people and places as they relate to socio-political issues surrounding matters of race and the state of democracy in the United States. Jackson’s multi-layered surfaces feature materials like quarry marble dust and Colorado sand, as well as screen prints from film stills and photographs, which highlight notable historical moments. Her work—Here at the Western World (Professor Windham’s Early 1970’s Classroom & the 1972 Second Baptist Church Choir), 2023, pictured above—is one such piece that will be on view in the exhibition through June 2.

You have a rigorous research-based art practice. How did that begin?

The earliest works in the show begin in 2014 when I was a student, with explorations into employing research-based methodology. I’ve always been asking questions and trying to visualize language and relationships. At the time, I was experimenting with researching histories of American school desegregation. In particular, I was focused on the cases that led to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954. As a student at Yale, I had access to the law library. I spent a lot of time trying to understand the many cases of this landmark legislation. Anyone who uses interstate travel, public education, or public broadcasting is a direct ben...


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Tomashi Jackson Probes American Democracy in Her Multi-Layered Work