Saturday, January 14, 2017

Best of 2016: Mickalene, Her Muses, & The Dark Brown Girl

Trinity of alluring afros (ala Foxy Brown or Cleopatra style) resting on a sporadically patterned carpet, slick legs on fleek.
2016 was a great year for art.
A most memorable exhibit was at Chelsea's Aperture Foundation. Mickalene Thomas's Photographs -- now on current view at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore-- turned large space into a sensational glamour cosmos. Glossy, high resolution images of stylishly sophisticated women attached seamlessly to walls. These brazen, dolled up, dignified faces stared out at viewers, seeming to have escaped from Vogue or Cosmopolitan, gloss leggy figures embodied a sensuous grace among challenged patterns and hot pulp lights. The fiction couldn't be any more sweet and visceral, relying on interests in Blaxploitation films and Hudson River School artists.

Viewers are submerged into carefully maneuvered layout while framed works have that picture in picture context. This is the very set, with a 1970's - 1980's vibe, that many of her subjects are placed.
In particular, centralized installation in the middle of the gallery recreated what Thomas' photographs envisioned-- a homely environment appeased by trademark distinctive decoration. With its wall to wall wood paneling, warm, bright bulbs, and hardware floor, the breathe-in space feels rich and inviting, as though one could revel in browsing through the library shelf over a cup of tea and celebratory television whilst admiring bold, colored compositions discretely performing measured symmetry on the walls.   

Thomas sews most of these fabrics together, bringing a full blown fulfillment to pleasurable three dimensional experience.
Method to a seemingly DIY artsy madness--Thomas stitches varied fabrics together and layers these collage efforts on this found couch-- also repurposed with funky integrity.
Aesthetically, mitch match design should clash and burn.
Library includes Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," Alex Haley's "Roots," and Richard Wright's "Native Son."
The lampshade is a vessel of the light that emits triangular shaped brilliance from both ends, dawning on the desk's objects and the couch's yellow and brown floral arm.
Beautiful negatives.

The many faces of Sandra Bush.
The triptych honoring Sandra Bush, Thomas's fashion model mother is one of several pieces indebted to a wondrous alluring, empowered kind of beauty. This tragic, bittersweet homage is a poignant testament of a daughter's loving attachment, a relationship that would never fade regardless of time.

Another woman, legs crossed, sharply dressed, residing in Thomas's signature set.
Negress with Green Nails, 2005.
Facial closeup.
Nail closeup.
Green Negress with Green Nails is especially infectious, bursting with charm and innocence. Giddiness sensory overwhelms picture plane, the bright red opened mouth, sensuous and inviting, shows candid set of bright, smiling teeth. Sparkled shimmer of green eye shadow coated on eyelids plays along with long, curved nails, necklace, and the ribbed short sleeve blouse. Is there something alien, a little bit foreign about the woman in white barrettes dangling from two strand twists with big gold hoop earrings and an attractive Cheshire grin? Perhaps her otherworldliness comes from within and not necessarily from this highly florescent green hue. Vital cues piece together an affectionate narrative of this vibrant, centralized dark brown figure-- the demure way her hands are gingerly clasped, the captivated awe in her eyes staring out at the viewer, the childish gleam yet womanly curve.

A still from Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman happens to be a rhinestone collage of a photograph. Nicely done intimate documentary laced with so much love and art. Looping on a vintage color television of the installation space, one couldn't help but be thrilled to see this piece inside of the piece itself-- utterly genius!

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