In a world of hyper-consumerism, women have been at the top of the list as consumable objects. Images that propel women into the world as glossed, glazed, brushed, and ready to unwrap with a mere head nod have inundated popular visual culture for years. Mickalene Thomas and her exhibition Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe, now on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, may be the work to help invert these notions of womanhood, femininity, and gaze.
In her first solo museum exhibition, Thomas has invited us into the details of her life and artistic practice. “My photographic installations have never been viewed in New York,” she states. “I wanted to show the viewer the nature of how I build up these installations, these are my photographic spaces.” The spaces to which Thomas is referring are the spaces most recognizable in her color-rich paintings, collages, and large-scale photographs which feature women prominently at play, in power, and being sensual.
The multidimensionality and layers in this exhibition highlight Thomas’s meticulous work ethic (90+ pieces fill the spaces). Influence from her time in France for the 2011 residency at the Versaille Foundation Munn Artist Program are evidenced in various mixed media collages featuring landscapes and interior spaces.
In true Thomas practice, women are ever-central and represented in painting, collage, and photography from head-to-toe and including the “Origin of the Universe.”
Her mother, whom Thomas describes as “a major subject” in her work, is in a documentary strategically placed at the end of the exhibition.
“She’s why I make work in the first place, she’s where the energy comes from” continues Thomas, “that’s why the origin of the universe is me at the beginning and my mother at the end, because without my mother there would not be me, we are the book ends of this exhibition.”
Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe has been organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art and curator Lisa Melandri. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Eungenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Musuem.
Generous support for this exhibition was provided by Forest City Ratner Companies and the Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia Contemporary Art Exhibition Fund.
The exhibition is on view from September 28, 2012 through January 20, 2013