Mickalene Thomas

Phaidon. Nov. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781838664015. $125. FINE ARTS
Thomas’s art celebrates Black femininity. Her subjects are beautiful, proud, and comfortable in their skin; she portrays their naked bodies and frank sexuality without shame or objectification. The artist (b. 1971) has characterized her work as garish, as wild, as disruptive. This first monograph devoted to Thomas’s work accompanies an international exhibition surveying her oeuvre. The volume is primarily images, organized chronologically, from 2000 to the present. A list of works and a biography of Thomas serve as helpful references, alongside substantial essays by the likes of Roxane Gay, whose admiration for Thomas’s creative journal and bold work are evident in her very personal text. A scholarly essay by Kellie Jones (Hans Hofman Professor of Modern Art, Columbia Univ.) provides the art historical context, helping readers to see the range of artists who’ve influenced Thomas, from Édouard Manet and Henri Matisse to Jacob Lawrence. The creative design of this monograph is well-suited to Thomas’s vivid body of work that includes painting, photography, videography, collage, and installations full of bright saturated colors enhanced with glitter and rhinestones.
VERDICT This is an important and accessible work and will be relished by followers of contemporary art.
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