For Mickalene Thomass exhibition Femme au divan II at the Pavillon Bosio at the École Supérieure dArts Plastiques
in Monaco, the artist presents a collection of paintings, a series of photographs, and a new video. With her unbounded experimentation and vivid imagination, Thomas evolves splendid images of black women through an astounding array of artistic and material forms, as well as through the lens of myriad art historical, cultural, and social references. Her art is an aesthetic of complex intersections and seemingly incommensurable juxtapositions that are deeply influenced by the legacy of painting in the canon of Western art, ranging from 19th century European artists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, to 20th century European and American artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and later David Hockney.
Thomas is deeply committed to re-imagining black female subjectivity in art, which she envisages by imbuing her models with a sense of magical realism enabled through her precise formal manner and aimed at countering problematic historical representations of black women. Her paintings are embellished with sparkling strass and enamel paint that glimmer when touched by light. The womens Afro hairstyles simultaneously structure and defy the frame in unexpected ways, while the use of transparent acrylic renders the forms abstract when applied flat. Thomas evolves a pictorial treatment that effortlessly melds dynamic and diverse compositional elements: the patterns on flowery, retro clothing, leather furniture, wicker and bamboo, resist-dyed African fabrics, painted wood panels, embroidered rugs, indoor plants, texturized Scandinavian lampshades, and crocheted cushions. Yet her control of rhythm, form, color, and motif succeeds in constructing a coalesced space - one in which we immediately realize the potential of being and form in new and unanticipated ways.
The exhibition is presented in association with The Monaco Project for the Arts.
Running concurrently is Thomas's gallery exhibition Tête de Femme at Lehmann Maupin in New York, open through August 8, 2014. The show features a new series of portraits in which Thomas explores the intricacies of female beauty through painting and collage, focusing on how artifice serves both to mask and reveal the individual essence of her subjects.