Pomona College Museum of Art Presents “MUSE: MICKALENE THOMAS PHOTOGRAPHS” and “TÊTE-À-TÊTE”

Mickalene Thomas
Mickalene Thomas, Le leçon d’amour, 2008, C-print, 47.5 x 59 in. Copyright Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist; Lehamann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Claremont— The Pomona College Museum of Art presents the traveling exhibition “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs” with “tête-à-tête” on view from Jan. 25 to May 13, 2018. A public reception will take place from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, January 25.

Mickalene Thomas, known for her large-scale, multi-textured, and rhinestone-encrusted paintings of domestic interiors and portraits, has also identified the photographic image as a defining touchstone for her practice. Thomas first began to photograph herself, and her mother, as a student at Yale—a pivotal experience for her as an artist.

While working across multiple series, much of her photographic work functions as a personal act of deconstruction and reappropriation—both of images she has created herself and images she has singled out as influence. With each series, she grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty and inspiration. Thomas’ portraits draw equally from 1970s black-is-beautiful images of women, such as supermodel Beverly Johnson and actress Vonetta McGee, Édouard Manet’s odalisque figures, and the mise-en-scène studio portraiture of James Van Der Zee and Malick Sidibé, to mention a few. Perhaps of greatest importance, however, this collection of portraits and staged scenes reflects a very personal community of inspiration as well—a collection of muses that includes Thomas herself, her mother, and her friends and lovers, emphasizing the communal and social aspects of art-making and creativity that pervade her work.

The idea of communities of inspiration will be further carried out via “tête-à-tête,” an installation curated by Mickalene Thomas of work from photographers and key images which have inspired her. This will include those from older generations of artists, to those by more contemporary artists who are part of her generation or younger, and may in turn find inspiration in Thomas’ own practice. Artists in “tête-à-tête” include Derrick Adams, Renée Cox, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Carrie Mae Weems.

The accompanying publication Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs was released by Aperture in November 2015 and is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

The exhibition, “Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs,” is organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. Additional funding for this exhibition is provided by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.

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