‘In my practice as an artist, I continuously push the conventions of painting, photography, collage, and printmaking beyond their traditional limits,’ says multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas, whose photo collages are an organic lens through which she explores Black female erotica.
In je t’adore, currently on show at New York’s Yancey Richardson, 14 new large-scale mixed media collages consider desire, sexuality and transformation in a subversion of everyday portraits of Black women alluringly repositioned. ‘In these 12 new photo collages, each figure is surrounded by abstract shapes of textile interior and patterns suggestive of the era from which the photographs derive,’ she adds. ‘Printed directly on aluminium using a dye sublimation process, the individual elements of each work are cut out and layered one on top of another creating a dimensional surface. These works celebrate the sexuality and beauty of the female Black body through notions of desire.’
Thomas cites the 2009 exhibition, Black Womanhood (a travelling exhibition which debuted at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in New Hampshire and closed at the San Diego Museum of Art) as a major inspiration. Photographic history, The Black Female Body by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams, which questions why Western cultures hold a fascination for the Black female body, was also key. ‘These two sources have inspired my long exploration of the Jet beauties of the month. This exhibition expands upon my existing series of collages that reference the status of Jet calendars within the history of African American art while challenging society’s traditional notions of beauty, erotica, and sensuality. It also felt like a full circle moment as it gave me the opportunity to revisit topics and mediums that have long inspired me with a new perspective.’
In these works, Thomas’ figures are powerful against their figurative backdrops, the amalgamation of materials - including her distinctive, sparkling rhinestones - offering their own narrative on the fluidity of history and identity, at home at Yancey Richardson. ‘Yancey is a dear friend and long-term collaborator and I'm happy to be presenting these new works as an organic outcome of this collaboration. She’s represented and placed my photographs in some of the most prestigious museums across the United States; for most of these institutions, it was a great way of acquiring my work for their acquisitions. I can't think of a better place than her gallery to showcase these new photographic collages.’
Je t'adore is on at Yancey Richardson, New York, until November 11
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Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.
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