Mickalene Thomas: More Than Everything

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Mickalene Thomas: More Than Everything

Lehmann Maupin's Chrystie Street gallery opened the 2011 fall season with Mickalene Thomas' second solo show, More Than Everything, which was on view until October 29th. Thomas has been hyper-prolific, creating works in critical engagement with inquiries into gender, race, class and sexuality. 

More Than Everything introduced a schematic freshness into her material process and conceptual threading. What surprised me most was the scale of Thomas' new pieces. I'm used to standing back from her paintings, large and bejeweled, then stepping up closer to inspect technical habits, not the subject matter. More Than Everything demanded a far more intimate, salon style viewing: works were smaller in scale and meticulously constructed.

While Thomas has been analyzing traditional depictions within Western Painting, this show featured a renewed exploration of the dialogue between painting and photography. The history of photography was prominent in this show not just in large scale polaroids, but also in the presence of specific references to photography's role beyond being a painter's tool: framing and perspective. (Bellocq and LeGray's impact on Courbet; Nadar on Manet—these two definitely came to mind). And then Bearden, of course. Thomas acknowledges these historical progressions without creating work that feels dated or mechanical. It just feels complete.

While preparing for three solo shows in 2012, Thomas was kind enough to make time for an exclusive interview, in which we discuss aesthetic influences, the creative process and what's new in the studio. What follows is an edited interview with the artist, completed in November 2011.

Mickalene Thomas,  More Than Everything, 2011. Installation view, Lehman Maupin, New York.

Patricia: Congratulations on your second solo show! For some reason I was expecting larger works. Scale activates intimacy, and the edges of your collages really pulled me in.  It's almost like you treated background as an extension of character, which is something I think you do anyway.
Mickalene:  Yes, the backgrounds are every bit as important as the figures they contain (or the figures that are absent in the more recent collages of interiors and landscapes). Part of this importance is a function of the process of making any object for me—the collages, as objects, need to be interesting on all levels, including their edges and peripheral spaces. They are not simply presentations of images or ideas but are also formal objects. In this way, I work to make the

Comments [6]

Grace Moon's picture

I love this interview! I love

I love this interview!

I love that Mickalene really discusses her reflections on her process, from the materials to the construction of space—figure/ground neg/pos—which as we've discussed before is an essential aspect of contemporary art that I believe a lot of artists tend to ignore (or treat poorly).


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patricia's picture


Part of why I wanted to focus on her creative process was exactly that—the formal aspects. She makes it look so easy!

Marcie Bianco's picture

the concept of framing, of

the concept of framing, of delimiting 'art', delimiting its space and thus its affects, etc, is fantastic—love this!

patricia's picture

the way we frame, the way we see: we can't help it!

That the frame is inseparable from the gaze is key, isn't it?

Marcie Bianco's picture

in a psychoanalytic sense,

in a psychoanalytic sense, yes—but, in a different sense, i think (via Deleuze) the frame is what delimits the art as a body of sensations/intensities that exists regardless of/outside the viewer....So the frame is what makes art "art," not in the eyes of the beholder, but by its very spatiality/materiality itself. 

patricia's picture

hi there!

I don't fancy myself qualified to discuss Deleuze (although I like what he writes about artists, especially Bacon!) but yes, I see what you mean (and Deleuze) by what the frame represents, by what it asserts and how it mediates an experience. Rather, how it dictates something about the piece we're supposed to be experiencing.