Mickalene Thomas’ celebration of black women’s bodies is playing in 4 cities around the world
“September 1977” by Mickalene Thomas on view at Lévy Gorvy New York until November 13.
When the producers of ESSENCE were in the early stages of planning for the 2017 Black Women in Hollywood Awards, its 10th anniversary, the team wanted to elevate the event’s message by highlighting how black women were celebrated in relevant narratives. and shamelessly beyond entertainment. Enter visual artist Mickalene Thomas.
“Mickalene uses a multitude of mediums highlighting the strength and vulnerability of black women through textiles, photo montages and sequins,” says Ally Brown, Senior Creative Director of ESSENCE, who has selected works from the archives of Thomas to present them as majestic panels on the black tie case scene.
From this fall, several of these archival pieces will be exhibited in Thomas’ latest exhibition, Phaidon Press, which will be presented in the Lévy Gorvy galleries in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and at the Nathalie Obadia Gallery, Paris by November 13.
At the opening in New York, Thomas said of his current exhibition: “In 2017, I started making collages related to these NS beauties of the week. But I felt a little distant because I am used, as you all know, in my work, to photograph models, to create installations. This part of my practice and process is really a way to understand the environment, the elasticity, allowing the model and the model to activate the space in a collaborative way. Like that, when I photograph them, there is this essence that crosses the image. I was very excited about it. Enthused by this relationship with a core of work with women that I knew and that they breathe, are personified in these different characters. And represent the women in my life that I wanted to celebrate, that I loved and adored and that I didn’t see in print ads. I hoped that they would create some impact and inspire other people, or every day women or young girls who could go and see these images in museums or galleries.
Thomas continued, “Then fast forward I had a show and then COVID came along. I started to think about how, as an artist, you should use your resources when there are limits. I was no longer in a situation where I photographed my friends or my lovers. And my mother was not there. I started to really think about these women and how I could present them and provide a narrative of the agency’s representation in the way I see them. And so, as I took the calendar images and got them through my process of pasting and working with them. They became these monumental figures . They became alive for me. They were no longer anonymous. They became for me these heroines of the management of desire, of pleasure and above all, of reflection on the lives of blacks. Through the last of my work during COVID, I was really dealing with black eroticism. And so burn these images of a way that allows black women to deal with their sexuality. And it has nothing to do with the stereotype. It’s black erotica and what it really means.
The world retrospective, the first of its size for the artist, coincides with another important milestone in Thomas’ nearly 25-year career. Phaidon Press publishes the first complete monograph of his paintings, portraits, photographs and photographic collages. The 288-page retrospective includes essays by acclaimed author Roxane Gay, renowned German-American painter Hans Hofmann and modern art professor at Columbia University Kellie Jones, which will profoundly influence Thomas’ artistic journey when Jones taught him. in a performance art class.
The New York-based artist has long centered the bodies of black women in vivid acrylic paints embellished with rhinestones and blaxploitation-inspired photographs (a respectful nod to her childhood in the 1970s). Her art is an explicit commentary on race, gender, and sexuality, and her works adorn private and permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, where Thomas’ portrait in 2008 the former first lady Michelle Obama is housed. About his collective art: “Collage is a big part of my work. It’s one of the cores of creativity where you can take various components from different resources from our sources and you can try to make sense of the art or create a narrative, ”Thomas said.
Commenting on her designs, contemporary artist Kerry James Marshall said: “A room full of paintings by Thomas is viscerally uplifting. High impact colors, clashing and overlapping patterns, rhinestones and sequins… produce an effect that is simply stunning. We couldn’t agree more.