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Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe

Artist/Designer: Mickalene Thomas

Project Location: New York, United States

Figure 1: Mickalene Thomas (Amercian,b. 1971).Qusuquzah, une très belle négresse Number Two, 2011-12. Rhinestones, acrylic, and oil on wood panel. Collection of Juwan Howard, Miami ( Source | Accessed : October 31, 2016 | Photographer: Christopher Burke Studio )
Figure 2: Mickalene Thomas (Amercian,b. 1971). Interior: Two Chairs and Fireplace, 2011. Mixed-media collage. Collection of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr. Richmond, Virgina. ( Source | Accessed : October 31, 2016 | Photographer: Christopher Burke Studio )
Figure 3: Mickalene Thomas (Amercian,b. 1971). Interior: Green and White Couch, 2012. Rhinestones, acrylic, oil, and enamel on wood panel. Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins, New York. ( Source | Accessed : October 31, 2016 | Photographer: Christopher Burke Studio )
Figure 4: Mickalene Thomas (Amercian,b. 1971). Din, une très belleneégresse Number Two, 2012. Rhinestones, acrylic paint, and oil enamel on wood panel, 102 x 84 x 2 inches. Private Collection, Boston, Courtesy of the artist, Lehmann Thomas, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, and Suzanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. ( Source | Accessed : October 31, 2016 | Photographer: Christopher Burke Studio )


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Brooklyn artist Mickalene Thomas is best known for her elaborate, collage-inspired paintings, embellished with rhinestones, enamel, and colorful acrylics. Her depictions of African American women explore a spectrum of black female beauty and sexual identity while constructing images of femininity and power. Origin of the Universe, Thomas’s first solo museum exhibition, highlights recent bodies of work that examine interior and exterior environments in relation to the female figure. Their settings are often inspired by her 1970s childhood.

Thomas’s production is informed by the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, still life, and the female nude. She combines careful borrowings from historical painting with contemporary popular culture, taking cues from such artists as Romare Bearden, Gustave Courbet, David Hockney, Édouard Manet, and Henri Matisse. In combining traditional genres with African American female subjects, Thomas makes a case for opening up the conventional parameters of art history and culture. Among the pieces on view are contemporary riffs on Courbet’s Origin of the World and Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe. Seventy-five of the ninety featured works were added for the Brooklyn presentation. An entrance-gallery mural, a film about Thomas’s mother, and installations of furnished domestic interiors were created specifically for this show.

Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe was organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art and Lisa Melandri, former Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum.

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