Mickalene Thomas Brings Collage and Glitz to Lehmann Maupin


Mickalene Thomas, 'Untitled #1,' 2014 (Courtesy Mickalene Thomas and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, and ARS (Artists Rights Society), New York Photo by Elisabeth Bernstein)

Mickalene Thomas, ‘Untitled #1,’ 2014 (Courtesy Mickalene Thomas and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, and ARS (Artists Rights Society). New York Photo by Elisabeth Bernstein)

Lehmann Maupin was an enclave of rhinestones and searing colors when Mickalene Thomas’ latest exhibition, “Tête de Femme,” opened Thursday night.

Her fourth solo show at the gallery, “Tête de Femme” (translated as Head of a Woman) harks back to the golden age of Interview magazine, brimming with Warhol-esque colors and fragmented shapes. In anticipation of the opening, Ms. Thomas explained to the Observer that it was “how wild they were with portraits” that moved her to look at old copies of Interview. “I truly love those covers,” she mused.

Her portraits are definitely wild. Half album cover, half Picasso, Ms Thomas’ screenprinted angular portraits burst out of the walls at the opening, while the artist – clad head to toe in black – mingled with the gallery’s lively crowd.

The new body of work is a departure from the classical depictions of women and race Ms. Thomas is known to focus on. Though just as exuberant, with trademark glossy enamels and domineering models, the portraits themselves are now graphic and abstracted.

Having always drawn inspiration from a wide pool of art history, referencing anything from Gustave Courbet’s paintings to African masks, Ms. Thomas’ work is frequently punctuated with a pop sensibility. This time, the works deal with contemporary Pop to conceptualize the female portraits, creating stripped down images that channel the likes of Cubism and Matisse through skilled manipulation of line and form.

With the highly praised show “Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs” finally set to arrive in New York this coming October, and abstract, art pop prints cropping up throughout this summer’s trends (see Céline for painterly brushstrokes), Tête de Femme feels most timely.