MoMA PS1 presents the third installment of the site-specific series On-Site, a new large-scale wall piece by Mickalene Thomas titled Le Déjeuner Sur L'herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (2010). This installation will be on view in the First Floor Lobby beginning February 27, 2010.
Mickalene Thomas explores notions of beauty particularly in relation to African American women with her photographs, collages, and paintings. Her portraits are informed by the long tradition of portraiture in western art history, the more recent pin-up images of the 1960's and 70's, and by her own mother, a former model, who often models for Thomas. They address questions of artifice, femininity, strength, and glamour. In this work for PS1's lobby, Thomas presents three women in an ornate setting, composed in a direct homage to Manet's Le Déjeuner Sur L'herbe, 1863. The sitters exude intense confidence and sensuality amplified by Thomas' patterned and collaged treatment. The work originated as a photograph that Thomas staged in the MoMA Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden late one summer evening. She then collaged the photograph with other elements, then scanned and further altered it in Photoshop, creating a puzzle-piece effect that alludes to the process of its making.
Thomas' meticulous attention to detail in the creation of her work is paramount to the success of her striking images. Vibrant colors and generous use of props and jewelry create a captivating scene that play on idealizations of beauty. By presenting bold and striking African American women in historical compositions, Thomas offers an alternative to mass media imagery and simultaneously makes thoughtful allusion to pop cultural references like Blaxploitation and suburban kitsch.
In summer 2009, Mickalene Thomas conducted a casting for this new work and staged a series of photographs in The Museum of Modern Art's Sculpture Garden. A painting made from one of the resulting photographs from the shoot is currently on view in the window of The Modern Restaurant, adjacent to MoMA, at 9 West 53rd St.
Mickalene Thomas (b.1971, Camden, New Jersey) earned her MFA from Yale University in 2002 and currently lives and works in New York. Shewas featured in Greater New York (2005) at PS1 and recently was included in Dress Codes: The Third ICP Triennial of Photography and Video. She is represented by Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York, Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, and Susanne Vielmetter Projects Los Angeles.
Organized by MoMA PS1 Director and MoMA Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach.