"Femmes Noires" | Mickalene Thomas

Contemporary Arts Center

900 Camp Street

November 2, 2019 – June 14, 2020

Press Release

Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires
ON VIEW NOVEMBER 2, 2019 - JUNE 14, 2020

Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires is an exhibition of new work—collages and montages by Mickalene Thomas. Spanning new painting, film, and photography, the works include references to pop culture and the long history of Western and African Art—from Edouard Manet’s odalisque figures to the mise-en-scene studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé. Thomas’s ability to detect and to hold contradictions translates into powerful, self-possessed depictions of Black women that confront and subvert stereotypes. In dialogue with collages and montages by artists notably including Pablo Picasso, Hannah Höch, Romare Bearden, and Wangechi Mutu, Thomas’s work uses juxtaposition and arrangement to explore cross-cultural and hybrid social and personal histories.

Co-organized by Andrea Andersson (CAC New Orleans) and Julie Crooks (AGO Toronto), this exhibition is transnational in its structure and logic, exploring the identity construction of women of the global African diaspora. This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue co-edited by Andrea Andersson (CAC) and Julie Crooks (AGO), and co-imprinted by the AGO and Goose Lane Press.

Mickalene Thomas: Femmes Noires is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), New Orleans and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto. This exhibition is supported by The Helis Foundation, Sydney & Walda Besthoff, and The Azby Fund. Additional funding is provided by the Visual Arts Exhibition Fund with generous contributions from The Azby Fund, Bryan Bailey, Valerie Besthoff, Walda & Sydney Besthoff, The Domain Companies, Anna & Scott Dunbar, Kendall Winingder and Patrick Schindler, Aimée & Mike Siegel, David Workman, and anonymous donors.

This exhibition is also supported in part by a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans as well as by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.

Mickalene Thomas

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

While exploring and challenging long-held notions of feminine beauty, Mickalene Thomas creates stupendously textured paintings through her sublime use of rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel. Sometimes she accompanies those painting with video installations that juxtapose Blaxploitation film imagery with that of classic Western European portraiture. 

Thomas’s influences range from historical figures such as Henri Matisse and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres to contemporary artists such as Carrie Mae Weems and Kara Walker. She also looks to 1970s Blaxploitation films and music legends such as Eartha Kitt, Bessie Smith, Sharon Jones, and Billie Holiday also inform Thomas’s works. Her love of music is apparent in the 2010 solo exhibition, Put A Little Sugar in My Bowl, which showed at Susanne Vielmetter Projects in Los Angeles and at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York.

Biographical information courtesy of: Corcoran Gallery of Art and Rubell Family Collection.

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