Mickalene Thomas: Muse and Tête-à-Tête

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA ), Baltimore MD, United States
27 Jan 2017 - 12 Mar 2017

Mickalene Thomas: Muse and Tête-à-Tête

La Lecon d’amour, 2018 © Mickalene Thomas; courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Mickalene Thomas: Muse and Tête-à-Tête highlights photographs by Mickalene Thomas and various photographers.

Mickalene Thomas, known for her large-scale, multi-textured, and rhinestone-encrusted paintings of domestic interiors and portraits, has also identified the photographic image as a defining touchstone for her practice. Thomas first began to photograph herself and her mother as a student at Yale—a pivotal experience for her as an artist.

While working across multiple series, much of her photographic work functions as a personal act of deconstruction and reappropriation—both of images she has created herself and those she has singled out as influences. With each series, she grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty and inspiration. Thomas’s portraits draw equally from 1970s black-is- beautiful images of women such as supermodel Beverly Johnson and actress Vonetta McGee; Édouard Manet’s odalisque figures; and the mise-en-scène studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé, to mention a few. Perhaps of greatest importance, however, this collection of portraits and staged scenes reflects a very personal community of inspiration as well—a collection of muses that includes herself, her mother, and her friends and lovers, emphasizing the communal and social aspects of art-making and creativity that pervade her work. The accompanying Aperture publication, Muse, is the first to gather together her various approaches to photography, including portraits, collages, Polaroids, and other processes.

The idea of communities of inspiration will be further carried out via Tête-à-Tête, an installation of work from photographers and key images, which have inspired her. This will include work from older generations of artists, such as Malick Sidibé and Carrie Mae Weems, and by more contemporary artists, such as Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, and LaToya Ruby Frazier, who are part of her generation or younger, and may in turn find inspiration in Thomas’s own practice. Thomas will curate this portion of the exhibition.




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