AKRON, OH.- The Akron Art Museum
added two of the artworks from the recently closed Pattern ID exhibition to its collection: Mickalene Thomas painting Girlfriends and Lovers and Yinka Shonibares photograph La Méduse.
Diverse cultural and art historical references are explored in Girlfriends and Lovers. Thomas richly patterned and rhinestone-studded work draws on everything from the group portraits of Picasso and the Dutch masters to 1970s interiors. In this piece, the artist addresses stereotypes of black femininity while also exploring how her women fit into art history. Thomas inspirations include Jet and Ebony magazine, her former fashion model mother, the music of the 1970s and trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We are thrilled to acquire such a major work from Pattern ID for the museums collection, said Ellen Rudolph, curator of exhibitions at the museum. This dazzling painting will undoubtedly delight our visitors and spark dialogue for years to come with its unique melding of art history, popular culture and the artists own biography, not to mention the luscious application of paint and sparkling rhinestones.
Girlfriends and Lovers was formerly part of the Art in Embassies Program, through which it was recently displayed in the United States Ambassador to the United Nations residence. The work was purchased with funds from The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture.
La Méduse pictures a model built by Shonibare of a battered frigate perilously afloat in a stormy sea. The title refers to the devastating wreck of the French ship Medusa, which carried the Europeans to Africa, off the coast of Senegal, in 1819. Shonibare uses Dutch wax cotton for the sails of the ship, a fabric whose complex history stands for the colonial relationship between Britain and Africa.
The monumental scale, ornate gold frame and ambitious theme of La Méduse purposely recall the kind of grand 19th century history paintings that hang in the Louvre, said Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs. In his photographic history painting, Shonibare addresses the colonial relationships between Britain and Africa, suggesting that those bonds were as tempestuous and potentially fatal as the journey of the storm-tossed Medusa. Shonibare adds to the photographs visual drama and underlines its questioning of national identity by making its sails from Dutch wax print cloth. This type of fabric, commonly thought to be African, was actually based on Indonesian designs, manufactured in England and sold to Africans.
Shonibare is the 2009/10 recipient of the Knight Purchase Award for Photographic Media, an endowment fund for the purchase of works by living artists using photographically based media.