At the Pavillon Bosio at the École Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques in Monaco is a collection of paintings, a series of photographs, and a new video by American artist Mickalene Thomas. Entitled Femme au divan II, the exhibition will remain on view through August 31st, and includes a series of photographs and paintings incorporating Thomas’s fascination with various time periods and perspectives on female African-American identity.
Mickalene Thomas, Left Behind 2 (2014)
Thomas’ work frequently involves complex intersections, juxtapositions, and experimentations in the construction of the female form, and the operation of memory, featuring brilliant images of black women made with a diverse array of material forms and processes. Strongly influenced by the “canon of Western art,” including artists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Picasso, Henri Matisse, Romare Bearden, and David Hockney. Her vision is largely dedicated to reimagining the image and status of the black female, employing magic realism through formal and dedicated techniques. She confronts problematic visual representations of black women throughout history, and celebrates the beauty that has been too often ignored. The paintings here have been treated with a sparkling enamel paint, making the surfaces glitter when lit.
The works on view at the École Supérieure comprise perhaps Thomas’s most expansive body of work in several years, including rarely seen video works alongside a broad collection of drawings and paintings. Moving beyond her signature constructions, Thomas shows a deeper side here, with highly detailed paintings that shift subtly in color upon close examination, and showcase her figurative abilities on a deeper scale. Prominent references to the art historical work in concert with Thomas’s subject matter, and reinsert the black subject into the same positions and poses that dominate the work of white painters of the last century.
In this manner, Thomas’s work takes on a staunchly political bent. By vocally taking claim of the “western canon,” Thomas in turn marks out a space for the black female in the same canon, a move that seems to take extra strength when placed in the context of her museum exhibition.
The current exhibition in Monaco was organized by Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris and Brussels) and it is presented in association with The Monaco Project for the Arts. Femme au divan II will remain on display at Pavillon Bosio through August 31, 2014.