Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) recently opened Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure, a large-scale, site-specific installation that has transformed every aspect of the museum’s east entrance and two-floor East Lobby. Thomas has created a new facade resembling traditional Baltimore rowhouses, as well as new wallpapers, furniture, and other design elements for the interior. The installation marks the inaugural presentation of the Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission, which was established in fall 2018 to provide contemporary artists with a platform within the BMA to realise ambitious new projects and to engage with the community through one of the most accessible areas of the museum. On view until May 2021, Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure is the most expansive commission undertaken by both the artist and the institution.
As part of the commission, Thomas has also curated a presentation of works by artists with ties to Baltimore that is featured in the newly enclosed Terrace Gallery. Paintings, prints, drawings by artists Derrick Adams, Zoë Charlton, Theresa Chromati, uniik/Dominiqua Eldridge, Devin N. Morris, Clifford Owens, and D’Metrius John Rice are hung throughout the space, while a loop of video works by Abdu Ali and Karryl Eugene, Erick Antonio Benitez, Nicoletta Daríta de la Brown, Kotic Couture, Markele Cullins, Emily Eaglin, Hunter Hooligan, Devin N. Morris, Clifford Owens, and TT the Artist are projected on a screen. The Terrace Gallery will also host a series of events, such as film screenings, artist talks, performances, and workshops. The installation also includes costumes for BMA staff working in the lobby designed by Dominican-born fashion designer José Durán.
“Mickalene’s ambitious reinstallation of the East Lobby offers a new and exciting aesthetic experience—one that engages the senses at every turn and offers the community a dynamic new space in which to connect with each other, the work, and the museum. It is transformative in its own right as an astounding work of art and in its revisioning of what museum can and should feel like to visitors,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “The Meyerhoff-Becker Biennial Commission was created to address, in part, this very vision of making the museum experience more welcoming to a broader range of visitors through exceptional art. We are incredibly grateful to Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker for their support in making the commission program possible.”
Thomas is globally recognised for her visually and conceptually layered compositions, created through an array of media, from acrylics, enamels, and rhinestones to richly composed photographs to mixed-media installations. Her portraits, landscapes, and interior views—whether produced in two or three dimensions—meld the visual vocabularies of art history and popular culture to examine issues of identity, gender, sexuality, and power. While her work deals in particular with the historic, social, and political constructs that shape our understanding of femininity and womanhood, her practice also delves into important moments of societal upheaval, especially those in the US between the 1970s and 1980s. It is this sensibility of place and context that Thomas is bringing to her recreation of the BMA’s East Lobby, reshaping it into a space that speaks to aspects of Baltimore’s history and architecture and that draws in the community through its vivacious use of different aesthetic modes and styles. Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure is curated by Christopher Bedford with Meyerhoff-Becker Curatorial Fellow Cynthia Hodge-Thorne and curatorial assistants Carlyn Thomas and Katie Cooke.
Internationally recognised artist Mickalene Thomas (American, born 1971) creates paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations that examine identity, gender, power structures, and the sense of self. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2019) ; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA (2019); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018); Wexner Center for the Arts, OH (2018); Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA (2017); Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, Houston, TX (2017); Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); Aspen Art Museum, CO (2016); Aperture Foundation, New York (2016); George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY (2014); and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2012–13); among numerous others. Her work is also held in the collections of the BMA, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Thomas has been awarded numerous prizes and grants, including the USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow (2015); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2013); Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award (2012); and the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010). Thomas received a BFA from the Pratt Institute and an MFA from the Yale School of Art.
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