Mickalene Thomas - AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN New York Friday, February 8, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born 1971, Camden, NJ
    Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

    2002 MFA, Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT
    2000 BFA, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

    Selected honors: Audience Award: Favorite Short, 2nd Annual Black Star Film Festival (2013); Asher B. Durand Award, Brooklyn Museum of Art (2012); Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010); Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2009)
    Selected museum exhibitions: The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, CA; Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
    Selected public collections: Brooklyn Museum, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and many private collections

    Drawing on art history and popular culture, Mickalene Thomas examines black female sexuality, beauty and power through paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations. Thomas is perhaps most widely known for her signature use of rhinestones that she incorporates to create texturally rich paintings, using them to shade and accentuate specific elements of each work. A symbol of femininity, the rhinestones serve as an added layer of meaning but also metaphor of artifice – subtly confronting assumptions about femininity and womanhood. While choosing to depict powerful women, such as her mother, family members, friends, and also celebrities and art historical figures, Thomas models her women on the classic poses and abstract settings found throughout Western art history.

    As Roberta Smith wrote about the hugely successful 2012 exhibition Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe in The New York Times on September 27, 2012, “The unabashed visual richness of these works attests to the power of the decorative while extending the tenets of Conceptual identity art into an unusually full-bodied form of painting. Enhanced by burning colors; outrageously tactile, rhinestone-studded surfaces; and fractured, almost Cubist perspectives, these images draw equally from 19th- and 20th-century French modernism, portrait painting, 1970s blaxploitation extravagance and an array of postwar pictorial styles…As a black woman who loves women, Ms. Thomas is in a double bind, and she makes the most of this in order to transcend it. Through the scale and material capaciousness of painting, she celebrates, decorates and really venerates the black female body by making it and its lavish surroundings bracingly tangible. She doesn’t so much depict a universal humanity as practically force it into the viewer’s place, where it implicates, illuminates and bedazzles.”

  • Artist Biography

    Mickalene Thomas

    American • 1971

    Glamour and feminism need not be foes, as evinced by the wonderful work of Mickalene Thomas. The artist examines these qualities through the lens of the African-American female experience. Whether with her rhinestone-inflected, '70s-glam-inspired portraits of black beauty and power or her photographic installations of her mother's living room, Thomas personalizes while aestheticizing a visual conversation about race. By tackling classical art historical themes, she writes African-American aesthetics into traditional conventions.

    Blockbuster retrospectives at the Brooklyn Museum and ICA Boston thrust Thomas into contemporary art's mainstage. Her platform extends her creative pursuits into fashion, interiors and DJ'ing. Thomas' market has also grown at a steady pace with auction prices increasing each year.

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Diamond in the Rough

signed "Mickalene Thomas 2005" on the reverse
rhinestones, acrylic and enamel on wood panel
60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm.)
Executed in 2005.

Estimate On Request


New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019