Grounding the System: Theresa Chromati’s Charge

The hair on the back of my neck rises up when I step into the magnetic field created by Power Source, Theresa Chromati’s newest multi-media installation in Brooklyn.


Baltimore-born and Bed Stuy-based Theresa Chromati has transformed the BRIC House Hallway into a multi-sensory exhibition, created to consider the role of black women as powerful sources of energy: radiant, yet vulnerable.[i] The exhibition is complex, investigating emotional absorption and emission as Chromati tells the story of the often-intrusive drain of strength that black women face from those surrounding them.

Chromati’s prowess in creating powerful, sensual imagery illuminates the walls of  BRIC’s House Hallway as the installation inevitably envelopes visitors entering the building with inviting hums and saturated hues from the painted walls and lights above. The artist’s use of the human form spills off the gallery walls and into the  performative and immersive realm in Power Source, extending from the blossoming painted physiques in the mural onto the skin of the visitors as they are brushed by sound and light.

At the far wall, a sculpture of a massive electrical outlet gape at the viewer, housing two films of Chromati’s face in each opening. The videos flow between clips of Chromati pensively smiling with eyes closed to sudden exasperated looks with hands over her face. Melodic hums fill the hallway with hypnotizing sound, only to be cut sharply with sporadic screams. Her melody pulsates and crescendos into an urgent, high-pitched force, then lulls back into a soft wave. Extending from the bottom of the outlet, two stuffed limbs reach gently out on the floor towards the visitor. A painted mural graces the long wall on the left of the sculptures, echoing the shapes of the soft sculptures with a large hand that seems to gesture “stop.” It stretches from a series of archways that continue onto the next wall. Featuring Chromati’s signature curvaceous bodies and biomorpic forms, the second mural depicts a lemon-yellow body moving urgently out of another dark archway and away from the outlets at the end of the hallway. The profile of the figure holds a look of horror as it propels itself towards the BRIC exit. This mark of distress is reflected in Chromati’s look on camera, which oscillates between blissful rest and painful winces. The imagery in all elements of the installation are simultaneously inviting and panic-inducing, emanating the ebb and flow of energy that Chromati studies in her new body of work.


Chromati has displayed an emotional circuit, one that draws power from her and the women she has known without permission. The forms of this energy manifest in Power Source through multiple volumes with the wide range of media used by the artist, each as unpredictable and experiential as the next. The effect is one of openness: displaying vulnerability and strength in a fashion that is as lovely as it is haunting.


Power Source is itself an emission of energy caused by emotional current, an outlet that releases energy into the surroundings. The installation serves to ground the often-imbalanced currents of power, which transfers an overflow of electricity into the earth and prevents a blown fuse. Chromati has illustrated an unsustainable transfer of power, leaving the viewer wondering: when is the blackout?




BRIC, 647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217





ReviewsAni Bradberry