Until November 11, 2023, Mickalene Thomas takes over the Yancey Richardson art space with her new collection of works entitled “je t’adore“. This powerful exhibition reveals the eroticism and beauty of black women. This is the contemporary artist’s first solo show at Yancey Richardson Gallery, and an opportunity for art lovers to explore the full breadth of her artistic practice.
Born in Camden in 1971, Mickalene Thomas explores notions of beauty, race, gender and sexuality, often using images of powerful, bold black women. She is famous for her vibrant, colorful portraits, which often incorporate patterns and textures inspired by African-American culture. The contemporary artist has contributed to the birth of several aesthetic languages, clearly perceptible and honored within the contemporary visual prism. Producing masterful mixed-media films and installations, paintings in rhinestone, acrylic and enamel, and captivating photographs, her works dominate spaces with elegance and attraction, revealing the splendor of black identity and black womanhood within the Western sphere.
In her artistic practice, the contemporary artist constantly pushes back the boundaries of different artistic mediums and techniques such as collage, printmaking, painting and photography to offer a striking visual insight to her creations. Her art represents a curious combination of figuration and abstraction, with a touch of hyperrealism added by the unconventional materials used by the artist.
The artist’s new photographic collages are haloed by abstract forms and decorative motifs, alluding to the periods in which the photographs originated. Each of the elements in these works is taken and processed individually using a sublimation technique, then delicately steeped and layered to create an immersive dimensional surface. Mickalene Thomas adds gestural designs to the surface of her creations, which she magnifies with specific sparkling multicolored rhinestones. This admirable succession of techniques offers a dynamic three-dimensional artistic architecture that deflects any narrative reading and focuses the public’s attention on the collective nature of culture, the fluidity of identity and the malleability of history in contemporary society. Presenting a body of work rich in materiality and visual appeal, Mickalene Thomas celebrates the sexuality and beauty of the black female body.
The exhibition “Je t’adore” presents 13 large-scale mixed-media photographic collages that were inspired by the artist’s research into the imagery of black female eroticism from Jet magazine and the 1950s French publication Nus Exotique. Through this new series of works, Mickalene Thomas navigates notions of memory, sexuality, desire and transformation. The familiar, everyday black women in her collages are portrayed in enticing, seductive poses to convey all the charm and charisma of black beauty. It is in this periphery that she declares: “For me, this exhibition has come full circle in many ways. The process of creating these new works has been an opportunity to revisit subjects and mediums that have inspired me for decades with a fresh perspective. Je t’adore celebrates the beauty and power of black women through the prism of popular culture and collective history, past and present“.
The exhibition Black Womanhood (2009) and the book The Black Female Body by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams, referencing a photographic account of Western cultures’ fascination with the black body, served as a foundation, inspiring the conception of her works. These two references allowed the artist to pursue her exploration of the splendor of the month’s jet beauty, and led to a personal engagement with many anonymous women to better represent the complexities of the female body simultaneously. “Je t’adore” is thus an extension of Mickalene Thomas‘s collage series that relates to the Jet calendar code in African-American art history and redefines customary perceptions of beauty, eroticism and sensuality in society.