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This is an image of an artwork made by Tomashi Jackson in 2024 titled: After the Dance (Notting Hill Carnival 1976/LAPD raid on Project Blowed Leimert Park 1996).

Tomashi Jackson, After the Dance (Notting Hill Carnival 1976/LAPD raid on Project Blowed Leimert Park 1996), 2024, acrylic, Los Angeles palm frond ash paste, black paper bags on raw canvas, poplin with brass grommets, PVC vinyl strips, 85 × 104 × 9 inches.


Tomashi Jackson
Pilar Corrias

By Meara Sharma
June 1, 2024

Tomashi Jackson remembers palm trees burning when she was a child in Los Angeles during the 1992 uprisings. For days, ash rained over the city as thousands of people rose up against police brutality after the acquittal of the LAPD officers who were filmed beating Rodney King. The palm morphed from an 

emblem of paradise to one of rage, grief, and rebellion. Some three decades later, Jackson has returned to this symbol, blending ash from burned LA palm fronds into paste for her latest group of mixed-media paintings, “Silent Alarm.” The ash mingles with materials gathered in London—including houndstooth wool and poplin used for fine men’s garments sourced from areas of the city where police violence catalyzed unrest—as well as halftone news stills of pivotal events in both cities, from the 1965 Watts Rebellion to the London riots of 2011. Enmeshing these histories, Jackson has constructed layered sculptural assemblages of cloth, wood, paint, and earthen materials to visualize the cyclic, interconnected character of violence and oppression as well as vibrant legacies of solidarity and resistance. 

Though her practice is informed by extensive social and archival research, Jackson conveys first of all an arresting visual experience, using overlapping triangles of deep orange and mustard, strips of turquoise and electric blue, zigzags of red, and delicate tessellating patterns. The works’ potency is only intensified by the contrast with their stark titles, which reference specific instances of strife and protest—for example, "After the Dance (Notting Hill Carnival 1976/LAPD raid on Project Blowed Leimert Park 1996)" (all works 2024). Canvas and PVC are stretched tightly over wooden slats and frames and stitched with thick thread and grommets, a technique whose robust physicality conjures taut, vibrating energy, like a drum. News stills of people in the street after a fire in London’s New Cross in 1981 or the Chicano student walkouts in Los Angeles in 1968 are cropped and painted in colorful, irregular halftone lines, such that they initially appear as blurred mysterious shapes overlaid with shreds of netting. Only when contemplated slowly, or viewed through a screen or in a photograph, do the patterns resolve into bodies and faces—latent figures flickering in and out of a symbolic landscape. In addition to LA palm ash, Jackson embeds the works with slate and china clay sourced from England as well as marble from the quarry from which material for the Lincoln Memorial was excavated—a nod to the possibilities and failures of politics. And when viewed from the side, several of the paintings sit not flat against the wall but rather tilt outward on triangle-shaped frames, like oversize, slightly open books—the works themselves embodying the form of an archive. 

Across the show, the textiles that serve as supports are cut and layered into bold, geometric shapes and swathed in psychedelic hues. In one sense, the colors lend the works a dreamlike quality, evocative of sun-bleached music posters and summertime celebrations. But Jackson also deploys color to articulate bleaker realities, for instance, the street images and abstract patterns of "Policing the Crisis. (Los Angeles Uprising 1992/London Uprising 2011/LAPD raid on Project Blowed Leimert Park 1996)", are overlaid with a thick vivid-blue line—a stark evocation of the presence of law enforcement. 

Color, for Jackson, is a tool for posing questions about how we see the world and for visually asserting the simultaneity of joy and struggle, of destruction and camaraderie—dualities that, of course, define us. She has long been interested in how the language of color theory mirrors that of segregation; she has described how Josef Albers’s once-groundbreaking assertion that color is relative, contextual, and responsive continues to be a useful metaphor for critiquing racism. As Jackson says, and her works—at once figurative and abstract, exuberant and riven with fury—demonstrate, “Color is always changing, and, contrary to popular belief, it is not absolute.”