Mickalene Thomas is best known for her vibrant acrylic and enamel paintings of African-American women that are adorned with rhinestones and glitter. Combining the genres of portraiture and domestic interior, Mickalene Thomas draws on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of black female sexuality, beauty, and power. The exhibition highlights the ways in which Thomas experiments with the construction of intimate interior spaces to create a metaphor for the status of the female body—itself either present or absent—as it has been interpreted and used throughout the history of art. Organized by Curatorial Associate Anna Stothart, Mickalene Thomas features a selection of five, recent, large-scale paintings.
Meticulously composed of layers of bold patterns and bright blocks of color adorned with Swarovski rhinestones, the paintings are constructed through a rigorous three-part process. Thomas begins by constructing a tableau, posing a model, and taking a photograph. She then cuts up the photograph—fragmenting, deconstructing, and re-contextualizing the interior space—and reassembles the image as a collage. Finally, she reproduces the collage, at a greatly expanded scale, in acrylic, oil, and enamel.
As Thomas reorganizes the interior space surrounding the female figure, she draws inspiration from late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century artists such as Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, and Romare Bearden—all of whom used abstraction, to one degree or another, in their representations of the world. Combining patterns and styles drawn from a 1970s aesthetic, Thomas’s compositions simultaneously recall the “black is beautiful” movement, as well as the second wave of feminism that shattered cultural assumptions about sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights.
Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman: A Portrait of My Mother (2012, 23 min.)
Thomas’s first short film is part documentary and part emotional portrait of her mother Sandra Bush—both inspiration and muse to the artist’s work. See icaboston.org for screening dates and times.
Mickalene Thomas is generously sponsored by the Lehmann Maupin Gallery.
About the ICA
An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 75 years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.– 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $13 seniors and $10 students, and free for members and children 17 and under. State Street Corporation Free Admission for Youth at the ICA is generously supported by the State Street Corporation. Free admission on ICA Free Thursday Nights, 5–9 p.m. Free admission for families at ICA Play Dates (2 adults and children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at www.icaboston.org.