Artist Mickalene Thomas will unveil a collection of new work in the exhibition je t’adore, at Yancey Richardson from September 9 through November 11, 2023. In je t’adore, Thomas presents 13 large-scale mixed media photo collages inspired by her research into the imagery of Black female erotica featured in the calendars of Jet magazine and the pages of the 1950s French publication, Nus Exotique. The exhibition will be Thomas’ first solo exhibition at Yancey Richardson, the culmination of a decade of collaboration begun in 2012 with the gallery’s presentation of tête-à-tête, a group show curated by Thomas. je t’adore at Yancey Richardson coincides with an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery entitled Mickalene Thomas / Portrait of an Unlikely Space from September 8, 2023, though January 7, 2024.
Debuting these new works, Thomas investigates the notion of desire, memory, sexuality, and transformation through images of everyday, familiar Black women positioned and posed as alluring beauties. Thomas was inspired by the exhibition Black Womanhood (2009) and the book The Black Female Body by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams, a photographic history of the fascination of western cultures with the Black body. These two references have informed the artist’s long exploration of the Jet beauties of the month and inspired her personal engagement with an array of familiar, yet anonymous women, simultaneously reflecting the complexities imposed on the artist’s own body. The exhibition expands upon Thomas’ existing series of collages that reference the status of Jet calendars within the history of African American art while challenging society’s traditional notions of beauty, erotica, and sensuality.
Throughout her career, Thomas has combined abstraction and figuration, and pushed the conventions of painting, photography, collage, and printmaking beyond their traditional limits, often incorporating unconventional materials in her work. In these new photo collages, each figure is surrounded by abstract shapes of decorative patterns suggestive of the era from which the photographs derive. Printed directly on metal using a dye sublimation process, the individual elements of each work are cut out and layered one on top of another creating a dimensional surface. Applied to the surface are Thomas’ gestural drawings highlighted by her characteristic glittering multi-colored rhinestones. The result is a dynamic three-dimensional construction that undercuts any narrative reading and draws attention to the fluidity of identity, collectiveness of culture, and malleability of history in modern society. Rich in materiality and visual appeal, the works celebrate the sexuality and beauty of the female black body.