MICKALENE THOMAS "WHY CAN'T WE SIT DOWN", 2006
Mickalene Thomas (b.1971) is a renowned artist exploring the intersection of popular culture and art history, through a contemporary Black female gaze. She studied at the Pratt Institute, and earned her MFA from Yale. As an openly gay Black woman, sexuality and race are essential elements of Thomas' practice.
Thomas primary focus is portraits of black women. Her works are instantly recognizable featuring bold textures, patterns and colors.
Thomas' subjects radiate beauty and confidence, further enhanced by the abundance of colorful textures and patterns surrounding them. Their hair is typically natural, and their bodies are often exposed or informal. 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.
Visual references to Blaxploitation, Pop Art, Cubism, Dadaism, and even Renaissance art appear in her work. Her subjects, or muses, emanate an air of ease in their skin. Their gaze is usually directed towards the viewer, challenging the white male gaze and defying racial stereotypes of subservience and objectification.
This colorful and multi-faceted work "Why Can't We Just Sit Down and Talk It Over?" is a stunning example of Thomas' practice. Created in her signature mixed-media collage style, this screenprint features a poised and beautiful Black woman surrounded by vividly realized textures, colors, and patterns.
In archetypal Thomas style, the interior elements hint at domesticated nature including wood panelling on the walls and floral upholstery. Aesthetically it evokes the 1970's rec rooms of Thomas' childhood, which were also immortalized in Blaxploitation films. During this era Feminism and the African-American rights movements rose to the forefront of American social consciousness. Thomas' imbues layers of meaning within her vivid and luminous works.
This screenprint is based on Thomas' 2004 larger-scale painting "Can't We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over)" from her "She Works Hard for the Money Pin-Up Series". Subjects from the series provocatively pose somewhat exposed from the waist up. However, they intentionally remain covered from the waist down symbolizing ownership over their bodies and sexuality.
Mickalene Thomas has received numerous awards and worked in many creative channels besides visual art, including an HBO documentary and album artwork for Solange Knowles. She has created portraits of many famous African-American women including Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Condoleezza Rice, Whitney Houston, and Michelle Obama.
Thomas' works can be found in numerous museum's 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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"Why Can't We Just Sit Down and Talk It Over?"
Signed and dated by the artist
(Printer's Proof 4/4) From an edition of 40
Published by: Brand X Editions, NY (stamp verso)
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