Mickalene Thomas



Mickalene Thomas (b.1971) is an American artist exploring the intersection of popular culture and art history, through a contemporary Black female gaze. As an openly gay Black woman, sexuality and race are essential themes in Thomas' practice.

Thomas frequently creates portraits of black women. Her subjects, or muses, emanate an air of confidence or nonchalance and are often surrounded by abstract or patterned elements from an array of sources and eras. Elements of Blaxploitation, Pop Art, Cubism, Dadaism, and even Renaissance art appear in her work. 

Thomas subverts both art history and contemporary visual culture through her images of Black women. Their hair often remains natural, and their bodies are often exposed. They lounge, or pose, as women in art history have done for centuries. Only this time, it's Black women being celebrated for their culture and beauty. Furthermore, her subjects' gaze is usually directed towards the viewer, challenging the white male gaze and defying racial stereotypes of both subservience and objectification.

"Keri On" exemplifies Thomas' intricate collage style and her representation of empowered, poised black women. The woman (named Keri, as the title suggests) is a recurring muse throughout Thomas' oeuvre. The repetition of this character is a reflection of Thomas' unwavering dedication to her muses, a tight-knit group of women that started with her mother and evolved into representing her friends and ex-lovers as well as her current partner.

In this work, Keri's peers over her shoulder at an exaggerated angle, her hand placed firmly on her hip, strengthening her stance as she looks back at the viewer. Typical of Thomas' muses she is both playful and assertive. While Thomas is typically celebrated for her striking representation of interiors, the background in this work is notably stripped of context, featuring strong swathes of color-blocking broken only by Thomas' signature wood paneling. The smooth background amplifies Keri's presence, further confronting the viewer with her bold and alluring statuesque posture. 

Thomas' works can be found in numerous permanent collections including the Museum of Modern Art (NY), Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, the Guggenheim (NYC), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (NYC), and the Whitney (NYC) among many others. 

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"Keri On"

USA, 2019 

Silkscreen, collage, pochoir, and monoprint on Saunders Waterford 425gsm

Signed, dated and numbered by the artist

From an edition of 40

40"H 30"W (work)

44.25"H 34.5"W (framed)

Very good condition

Published by: Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in consortium with the Benefit Print Project, New York.

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