Mickalene Thomas’s Dazzling Collages Reclaim the Bodies of Black Women | smart news

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Jet Blue #25

Mickalene Thomas, Jet Blue #25 (detail), 2021
© Mickalene Thomas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Lévy Gorvy

museums are abundant with images of naked white women reclining on sun loungers. Take Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538): The titular figure lies naked on a crumpled white sheet, offering viewers a sidelong glance and a faint smile. Her left hand hides her crotch, while her right hovers over a bouquet of roses. another famous nude Edward Manet‘s olympia (1863), shows a model reclining on a sofa while her black servant brings her a bouquet of multicolored flowers.

mikalene thomasA contemporary African-American artist known for her stunning collages, she attempts to challenge these passive and racialized portrayals by “portraying real women with their own unique history, beauty, and backgrounds,” as she put it. smithsonian magazineTiffany Y. Ates in 2018. One of the artist’s recent collages, Jet Blue #25 (2021), epitomizes this philosophy: the piece uses blue acrylic paint, glittering rhinestones, and chalk pastel to create a fragmented image of a black woman meeting the viewer’s gaze rather than avoiding it.

According to Fashion‘s Dodie Kazanjian, the portrait is part of Thomas’ jet blue series, a compilation of collages that appropriates images from pinup calendars published by the black centric Jet magazine between 1971 and 1977.

“What I am doing is reinventing JetThe representation of African-American women as objects of desire by composing the figures within ornate paintings to showcase the empowerment of black women,” says Thomas. Fashion.

Jet Blue #25 and other works of Thomas’ oeuvre will be featured in the artist’s latest exhibition, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” For statementthe four-part presentation will consist of a “series of related and overlapping chapters” in Levy GorvyThe New York City, London, Paris, and Hong Kong locations. The paintings, installations, and video works on view will explore the black woman’s body “as a realm of power, eroticism, agency, and inspiration.”

“I’ve known Mickalene her entire career,” says gallery co-founder Dominique Lévy. NewsEileen Kinsella. “I felt that if she had the time, the space and the creative energy, it would be extraordinary to have an exhibition that unfolded in four parts. Wherever she is in our four galleries, she can view physical works and can still experience the full exhibition online. For me, this really is the world of tomorrow.”

What culture type‘s Victoria L. Valentine reports, the show will launch before the artist’s release first complete monographwhich will be published in November by Phaidon. The fully illustrated tome features paintings, collages, photographs, videos, and installations by the artist along with commentary by the art historian. kelly jones and writer roxana gay.

A highlight of the exhibition, To resist (2017), is a collage of images from the civil rights movement: police officers attacking the future congressman john lewis near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965, portraits of black luminaries as james baldwin and protest scenes.

“Mickalene is more than an artist”, christopher bedforddirector of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), while two floors facility of Thomas is currently on view, counts Fashion. “She is an activist, commercial photographer, designer, agitator, organizer, curator, public figure, and writer. … In her conception, being an artist today is not one thing but all those things”.

Born in Camden, New Jersey, in 1971, Thomas had a strained relationship with her family. As Karen Rosenberg wrote for the New York Times in 2012, the artist’s parents were drug addicts; Thomas left home as a teenager and moved to Portland to escape the situation.

“I didn’t want to be in that environment, and I was [also] dealing with coming out,” Thomas told the Times. (she is now engaged to curator and art collector Racquel Chevremont.)

While visiting the Portland Museum of Artthe young artist found himself carrie mae weemsmirror mirror (1987-1988), a photograph of a black woman looking at her reflection and talking to a fairy godmother.

“He spoke to me,” says Thomas. Fashion. “It’s so familiar to what I know of my life and my family. I am that person. I know that person. He was saying, ‘This is your life.’

After this experience, Thomas was inspired to create his own art. He later received a bachelor’s degree from the Pratt Institute and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale.

Thomas’s work had been largely abstract at Pratt, but it became much more personal and representational after taking a photography class with david hillard at Yale.

During the course, Thomas turned the lens on his mother, Sandra Bush. Eventually, he created a series of collages, paintings, and videos of Bush culminating in the short film Happy birthday to a beautiful woman. The play opened two months before Bush’s death in 2012.

Most of Thomas’s more recent works, including the 2014 artist series woman’s head (also on view in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”), plays with motifs of black femininity through an “interplay of line, shape, and material, punctuated with increased use of color,” according to one statement from the New York gallery Lehmann Maupin. A series painting, Carla (2014), shows a woman made of aqua and chartreuse forms. The result is a simplified and more conceptual representation of the female body.

“What’s going on in art and history right now is the validation and agency of the black woman’s body,” Thomas said. smithsonian magazine in 2018. “We do not need permission to be present.”

Beyond the Pleasure Principle” opens at Lévy Gorvy in New York City on September 9. Versions of the show will debut at the Lévy Gorvy locations in London, Paris, and Hong Kong on September 30, October 7, and October 15, respectively.

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