Mickalene Thomas, Shinique: Now I Know, 2015. Mixed media rhinestone, acrylic, and oil on wood panel. 96 x 120 inches. © Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas

Waiting on a Prime-Time Star

September 28, 2017 - January 13, 2018
Brown Foundation and Central Galleries
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Mickalene Thomas: Waiting on a Prime-Time Star features paintings, photographs, collages, prints, and mixed-media works that explore the artist’s complex vision of female sexuality, identity, and power. Thomas’s portraits, landscapes, and interiors examine how black women are represented in art and popular culture and confront our assumptions about what defines the female experience in the 21st century.

Thomas’s work draws on her close study of art history and the classical genres of landscape and portraiture. Inspired by diverse sources from Romare Bearden, Édouard Manet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Henri Matisse to contemporary film, fashion, and popular culture, Thomas challenges notions of femininity from a contemporary perspective. By modeling her figures and interiors on classically modern works, she claims agency for women who have historically been subjugated.

The Moody’s Central Gallery will feature a room-sized tableau designed by Thomas as an immersive environment. At the center of the tableau is Thomas’s documentary film, Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman (2012), a 23-minute exploration of the life and longings of her mother and muse, Sandra Bush. A former fashion model whose life echoes the aspirations and struggles of a generation of women, Bush is the inspiration of much of Thomas’s work. This video exemplifies the artist’s ongoing engagement with portraiture as a key to personal and cultural identity.

About the artist: Mickalene Thomas (lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) makes paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations that draw on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty, and power. Blurring the distinction between object and subject, concrete and abstract, real and imaginary, Thomas constructs complex portraits, landscapes, and interiors in order to examine how identity, gender, and sense-of-self are informed by the ways women (and “feminine” spaces) are represented in art and popular culture.

Thomas received a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in 2000 and an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2002. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at The Dayton Art Institute, OH (forthcoming, 2018); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (forthcoming, 2018); Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (forthcoming, 2018); Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA (forthcoming, 2017); Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA (2017); Spelman College Museum of Fine Arts, Atlanta, GA (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); Aspen Art Museum, CO (2016); Aperture Foundation, New York (2016); George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (2014); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2012-13); Santa Monica Museum of Art (2012); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2012). Select group exhibitions featuring her work include SHE: International Women Artists, Long Museum, Shanghai (2016); and 30 Americans, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2011), which has traveled extensively around the United States (2011-2017, ongoing). Thomas’s work is in numerous international public and private collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; MoMA PS1, New York; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Yale University Art Collection, New Haven, CT; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.

Thomas has been awarded multiple prizes and grants, including the USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow (2015); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2013); Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award (2012); and the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010).