Multidisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas will unveil a collection of new work in the exhibition Je t’adore, at Yancey Richardson from September 9 through November 11, 2023. In Je t’adore, Thomas presents 12 large-scale mixed media photo collages inspired by her research into the imagery of Black female erotica featured in the calendars of Jet magazine and the pages of the 1950s French publication, Nus Exotique.
The exhibition will be Thomas’ first solo exhibition at Yancey Richardson, the culmination of a decade of collaboration begun in 2012 with the gallery’s presentation of tête-à-tête, a group show curated by Thomas. Je t’adore at Yancey Richardson coincides with an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery entitled Mickalene Thomas / Portrait of an Unlikely Space from September 8, 2023, through January 7, 2024.
Debuting these new works, Thomas investigates the notion of desire, memory, sexuality, and transformation through images of everyday, familiar Black women positioned and posed as alluring beauties. Thomas was inspired by the exhibition Black Womanhood (2009) and the book The Black Female Body by Deborah Willis and Carla Williams, a photographic history of the fascination of western cultures with the Black body. These two references have informed the artist’s long exploration of the Jet beauties of the month and inspired her personal engagement with an array of familiar, yet anonymous women, simultaneously reflecting on the complexities imposed on the artist’s own body.
The exhibition expands upon Thomas’ 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.
Throughout her career, Thomas has combined abstraction and figuration, and pushed the conventions of painting, photography, collage, and printmaking beyond their traditional limits, often incorporating unconventional materials in her work. In these new photo collages, each figure is surrounded by abstract shapes of decorative patterns suggestive of the era from which the photographs derive.
Printed directly on metal 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. Applied to the surface are Thomas’ gestural drawings highlighted by her characteristic glittering multi-colored rhinestones. The result is a dynamic three-dimensional construction that undercuts any narrative reading and draws attention to the fluidity of identity, collectiveness of culture, and malleability of history in modern society.
Rich in materiality and visual appeal, the works celebrate the sexuality and beauty of the female black body.
“This exhibition is a full circle moment for me in many ways,” Thomas said. “The process of creating these new works was an opportunity to revisit topics and mediums that have inspired me for decades with a new perspective. Je t’adore, celebrates the beauty and power of Black women through the lens of popular culture and collective history both past and present.”
About Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas (born 1971) is one of the most influential artists in the world today. Her innovative practice has yielded instantly recognizable and widely celebrated aesthetic languages within contemporary visual culture. She is known for her elaborate paintings composed of rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel. Her masterful mixed-media paintings, photographs, films and installations command space, they occupy space eloquently while dissecting the complexities of black and female identity within the Western canon.
About Yancey Richardson Gallery
Founded in 1995 and located in New York’s Chelsea art district, Yancey Richardson represents artists working in photography, film, and lens-based media. The gallery program includes emerging photographers as well as critically recognized, mid-career artists such as John Divola, Mitch Epstein, Ori Gersht, Anthony Hernandez, Laura Letinsky, Andrew Moore, Zanele Muholi, Mickalene Thomas and Hellen van Meene. Additionally, the gallery has presented exhibitions of historically significant figures such as Lewis Baltz, William Eggleston, Ed Ruscha, August Sander, and Larry Sultan.
Yancey Richardson is located at 525 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011.