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Museum Exhibition

L'Ecole des Beaux Art...
Mickalene Thomas: Femme au divan II

July 5 – August 31, 2014

museum exhibition

George Eastman House
Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman

June 20 – October 19, 2014

Artist Project

Mickalene Thomas
Decópolis: The Talent of Others

February 6 - 24, 2013
The Proposition, New York

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Artist Bio

Mickalene Thomas

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Ocula

December 20, 2016

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Artomity

December 15, 2016

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What Happens When Artists Take Over an Upper East Side Mansion W Magazine

April 5 2016

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Mickalene Thomas on Muses, Models, and Mentors Interview Magazine

March 10 2016

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‘Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs’ and ‘Tête-à-Tête’What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week New York Times

February 11 2016

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Mickalene Thomas on Her Photographic Muses Vogue

February 6 2016

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Kindred spirits: Mickalene Thomas' collaborative photography at Aperture Wallpaper* Magazine

February 2 2016

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In Mickalene Thomas’s awe-inspiring portraits, a meaningful reflection of black women in art New York Times

January 29 2016

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Tour Mickalene Thomas's Brooklyn Townhouse Vogue

January 6 2016

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Panel Discussion including Mickalene Thomas Art Basel Miami Beach 2015

December 3 2015

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Mickalene Thomas Receives 2015 United States Artist Fellowship Award

November 10 2015

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Beautiful Photos Of Women Take On Stereotypes Through High Art Refinery29

November 4 2015

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The New York Times

July 18, 2014

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Time Out New York

July 7, 2014

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Interview Magazine

June 26, 2014

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Huffington Post

June 26, 2014

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New York Observer / Gallerist NY

June 20, 2014

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American Art

Spring 2014

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Vogue

February 17, 2014

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The New York Times

June 14, 2013

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Phaidon

June 13, 2013

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Whitewall

June 12, 2013

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Artspace

June 7, 2013

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Wallpaper* Brooklyn queen of bling Mickalene Thomas bedazzles with her rhinestone-studded canvases

June 2013

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ARTnews

April 2013

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Opening Ceremony

March 20, 2013

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Artforum

February 14, 2013

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ICA Boston Mickalene Thomas

December 12, 2012 - April 7, 2013

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ANP Quarterly

Vol 2 / No 7

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The Wall Street Journal

November 23, 2012

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The New Yorker

November 12, 2012

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Financial Times Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe, Brooklyn Museum, New York

November 7, 2012

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The New York Observer

November 5, 2012

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Artforum

November 2012

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Modern Painters

October 2012

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Brooklyn Museum, NY Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe

28 September – 20 January 2012

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The New York Times

September 28, 2012

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The Wall Street Journal

September 27, 2012

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The Wall Street Journal

September 24, 2012

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The New York Times

September 21, 2012

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Time Out New York

September 13-19, 2012

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W Magazine

September 2012

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Vogue

September 2012

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New York Magazine

August 27, 2012

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Art Review

May 31, 2012

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Artinfo

May 15, 2012

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Huffington Post

April 25, 2012

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Los Angeles Times

April 21, 2012

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The New York Times

March 30, 2012

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Artforum

December 31, 2011

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Artforum

December 1, 2011

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Velvet Magazine

October 31, 2011

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The New York Times

October 20, 2011

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Loop 21

October 18, 2011

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The New Yorker

October 7, 2011

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The Village Voice

October 5, 2011

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Photograph Magazine

October 5, 2011

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Whitewall

September 29, 2011

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Artinfo

September 26, 2011

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Arude

September 13, 2011

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Modern Painters

August 31, 2011

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Paper

August 31, 2011

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Bomb

May 31, 2011

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Bomb Video Mickalene Thomas: Behind the Scenes

Summer 2011

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Life and Times

May 23, 2011

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Art in America

February 17, 2011

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Artnews

December 31, 2010

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NBC Washington

August 22, 2010

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A Sky Filled With Shooting Stars

July 29, 2010

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V Magazine In The Flesh

April 30, 2010

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New York Observer A Window on Art: Mickalene Thomas' Shiny Sex-Appeal Paintings

April 26, 2010

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Weltkunst

January 31, 2010

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NY Arts

August 31, 2009

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Time Out New York

April 23, 2009

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Artforum

April 20, 2009

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The New York Times

April 12, 2009

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Nylon

March 31, 2009

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Art + Auction In the Studio

February 28, 2009

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Bomb Number 107 / Spring 2009

February 28, 2009

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Wynwood

November 30, 2008

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Wound Issue 4 / Autumn 2008

September 30, 2008

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Trace

March 31, 2008

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Whitewall

December 31, 2007

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Modern Painters

November 30, 2007

Wynwood


30 Americans
By Claire Breukel

The Rubell Family Collection museum remains one of the top attractions during Art Basel in Miami. I use the word museum, as the collection of work, the first of which was acquired in 1964, is of the stature of most world-class museums. That would make the acquisitions committee a family one, comprised of Don, Mera, Jason and Jennifer Rubell, aided by Director/Curator Mark Coetzee. With the lack of long-established museum spaces in Miami, this collection has filled the gap by presenting historically weighty and relevant exhibitions to the public, complementing this with a strong education program and gorgeously monumental library.

This appropriated role, however, has changed the way in which the collection handles its exhibitions. Beginning with "Redeye: LA Artists from the Rubell Family Collection," the collection has originated large single exhibitions that are both in-depth and expansive commentaries that reflect cultural, social, and often political ideas in our society. Using all 27 galleries in what is now a pristine white wall space, the museum focuses on purchasing a large selection of work from each artist, in order to show progression and give each one context in the greater scheme of things. This includes an extensive collection of Hank Willis Thomas' "The B®anded Series" from 1968-2008. Willis Thomas comments: "These works span an age from the death of Martin Luther King to our current elected president and through this kind of collecting, it shows the Rubells are in tune with American popular culture." In their introductory essay, the Rubells admit that the process of purchasing the collection has its restrictions- price, availability etc… and in an ideal world, it would be great to choose from all the works/artists out there. But there is no reason not to try.

As a follow up to the elections, "30 Americans" could come at no better time. Self described as a "critical mass of emerging African-American artists," the exhibition brings together thirty artists who simply have in common that they are African-American. Naturally when one hears this, alarm bells go off, but knowing the Rubells (having been a former intern), I know there is a method to this perceived madness. Walking through the giant rooms, the method starts to become apparent. As part of the "all-encompassing" approach, one can see masters such as Robert Colescott and David Hammons, representing the post-modern 1960's/1970's. These are adjacent and juxtaposed with artists, such as, Nick Cave, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and the Marlene Dumas-esque work of Noah Davis. The latter are younger artists I have known for a while, but never placed in the context of race/culture/identity; and they start to become more real as artists, as if this context makes apparent an important part of their personal history. Franklin Sirmans, in his essay for the "30 Americans" catalogue, succinctly clarifies: "In consideration of Thelma Golden's 2001 exhibition, "Freestyle…" that posited the fact that a show of black artists could in fact be post-black in subject matter, this presentation also questions the term and wantonly throws it into flux. The art at hand is wildly different in materials and themes, though it does offer hints to an assembled collection of a cultural consciousness." Without the inclusion of any clear subtexts and an even more general exhibition title that refers to thirty seemingly random Americans (in itself a commentary on the role and significance of African-American history to America in general), we rely on the fact that this consciousness does exist.

So, for the purpose of talking about the work, I am going to assume this collective cultural consciousness does exist in this way.

David Hammons' "Esquire (John Henry)" is an emblematic work. It is a minimalist sculpture piece comprised of a large stone resting on a can of Esquire black shoe polish, which in turn rests upon an upturned piece of iron railway track. The top half of the stone is covered in dark hair collected from a barbershop in Harlem, giving the rock the presence of being a face. From the title, we assume it to be that of folk hero, John Henry, who as a 19th century working-class figure, beat the machine that was about to take over his job, leading to his death.

In the gallery, around the corner from Hammons, is Gary Simmons' installation "Duck, Duck Noose." Born twenty-one years after Hammons, Simmons' work is as political and as charged. A circle of nine chairs, on which rest Ku Klux Klan white masks, surrounds an ominous noose. With contemporary art being what it is today, this symbolism is obvious and trite, but its presence still reverberates with tension.

Moving through the exhibition, it is apparent that "30 Americans" is investigating cause-and-effect channels of influence between the younger and the more established generations. There is a depth of progression and juxtaposition. Coming across the works of some younger generation artists, there is fascination with pop culture and its current relationship to the identity of African-Americans. Mickalene Thomas' characters in "Hotter Than July" and "Feel Like Makin' Love" are reminiscent of 70's pop posters- the glitz of the enamel and rhinestones with the overacted poses and lush fabrics make the stereotypes of "Afro-cool" seem absurd. Similarly, the lavishly-adorned "Sound Suits" by Nick Cave are absurd constructions made of a variety of scavenged materials that rub together and create noise when worn. Cave made the first suit in response to the beating of Rodney King in 1991. The works are garments that embody cultural politics, identity and a sense of activism through their performative (and thus disruptive) quality.

The easily-identified works of Hank Willis Thomas play with the stereotypical association of the black male body to sports. A Nike tick scarred onto a shaved head in Branded Head connotes slave-branding to determine ownership. In the work "Basketball and Chain" a shackle connects a jumping basketball-shoe-clad foot to a basketball. And finally, in the work "An Unidentified Jamaican Boy Uses the Puma H Street Running Shoe to Run for his Freedom 2003/2005? Willis Thomas again uses advertising language to talk about commerce and the economy and its relationship to the black male identity. Ironically, the exhibition is sponsored by PUMA. Willis Thomas responds: "My work is an artist's critique of how corporate America has imaged African-Americans…this (sponsorship) speaks to the relationship between the art world and the commercial world as sponsorship and culture have become interrelated." Is this a problem? He responds: "That's America!"

Referencing the exhibition title, the Rubells explain: "It is called 30 Americans, 'Americans' rather than 'African-Americans,' because the issues raised by the works in this show-race, class, gender, identity, among others-are at the core of the American experience." Can we then assume the issues surrounding race/class/gender/identity are common among all people living in America? Which leads to the age-old question- Can the African-American experience and voice be heard through an exhibition not curated by an African-American? I can't resolve these questions, but huge credit is due for having the courage to accept the contentious issues surrounding such an exhibition and to tackle it anyway. In a post-post era "30 Americans" can only help us get closer to redefining who we are, both as individuals and as a nation. With over 200 works of art to draw from, the Rubell Family Collection offers an exhibition that is provocative and questioning and not-to-be-missed. The exhibition is on view from December 3, 2008 - November 28, 2009.

Claire Breukel: Curator and art critic. Since 2006, she is the Director of Locust Projects, a renowned Miami-based non-for-profit specializing in alternative contemporary exhibitions.