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  • 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

    Influenced by Lacanian psychology as much as by the glam aesthetics of 1970s Blaxploitation films, artist Mickalene Thomas subverts conventional canonical formats to unravel notions of race, gender, and sexuality. Thomas’s complex works incorporate a wide range of media including rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel to create richly layered collage-like compositions that explore the inner natures of her sitters against the contradictions and misconceptions of identity. She produces portraits of African American women using vocabularies of the art historical canon and contemporary celebrity photography to render her subjects as powerful agents of their identities. Often depicting her sitters, whom the artist frequently refers to as “muses,” in the poses of the odalisques of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Édouard Manet, Thomas subverts traditional forms of representation and presents a complex and empathetic vision of the myriad experiences of Black woman in contemporary America. Her sitters return the viewer’s gaze, supercharging their potent presences.

    Thomas came to making art under precipitous circumstances; inspired by a retrospective of the work of Carrie Mae Weems while she was studying law in Portland, Oregon, Thomas has since devoted herself to exploring identity in visual terms. Her work incorporates a huge variety of influences, from Édouard Manet and Henri Matisse to Weems and Kehinde Wiley, and has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Brooklyn Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

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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