In her second solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, titled More Than Everything, Mickalene Thomas presents a selection of works on paper in an intimate, salon style. Thomas has chosen this mode of presentation as an echo, not only of the early Modernist salons made famous by the likes of Gertrude Stein, but also as a reflection of the array of influences and sources that collect on her own studio walls. Seen together, these many pieces, including a series of new large-scale, Polaroid photographs, drawings, and an array of collages, help to reveal an aspect of Thomas’s work that encompasses the multiplicity of her artistic and studio practice. Although Thomas has noted that not every painting has a collage, every image starts with a photograph, staged in a wood-paneled corner of her studio, and which directly informs and often serves as the basis of her elaborate, rhinestone-clad paintings that explore notions of black female beauty and identity.
Thomas has said of her practice, “When I’m working with a historical image, I use photography as a way of capturing and reinterpreting the image. I take photographs and use them to create collages that further complicate my relationship with the historical source image.” In 2009, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, approached Mickalene Thomas to create a mural for its 53rd street window. For this commission, which she titled, “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires,” Thomas photographed her models in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden in a setting crafted to recall Edouard Manet’s iconic painting, “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” (1863). Thomas’s reference to Manet and the inclusion of a Matisse sculpture as the fourth figure in the work pays tribute to the two artists, who, along with Romare Bearden, have strongly influenced the artist’s work.
Mickalene Thomas was born in Camden, NJ in 1971. Thomas earned a BFA in painting at Pratt Institute in 2000 and a MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2002. In 2003, the artist participated in a residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY. Thomas has exhibited extensively in both solo and group exhibitions including “Americans Now” at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C. (2010); “The Global Africa Project” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY (2010); and “Mama Bush: One of a Kind Two” at the Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2011). Forthcoming exhibitions include “30 Americans” at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C. (2011); “Origin of the Universe,” a solo exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2012); and a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2012. Thomas’s work can be found in significant museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, KS, the Rubell Collection in Miami, FL, and the American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Mickalene Thomas lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.