Magazine article Artforum International

Mickalene Thomas: Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Mickalene Thomas: Rhona Hoffman Gallery

Article excerpt

Mickalene Thomas's exhibition "Girlfriends, Lovers, Still Lifes, and Landscapes" far exceeds the decorative wallop of her first solo show two years ago at the same venue. She has become masterful at maximizing ornamentation and slick in her fearless color combinations. Her paintings, which combine large fields of poured enamel, thin brushy passages of acrylic paint, and thousands of fastidiously applied glitzy rhinestones, brazenly bring the feminist-inspired politics of the Pattern and Decoration movement to genre painting.

Landscape with Woman Washing Her Feet (all works 2008), which measures nine feet by twelve feet, is the least convincing of the exhibition's twenty-two works, attempting as it does atmospheric space while producing mere clumsy, flat horizons. The patches of blue sky and distant mountainous geography lack the artist's obsessive bejeweling, relying instead on awkward fields of characterless paint and dead opaque color, while the foliage bracketing the unspectacular vista is simply filled in, its array of green rhinestones conveying only illustrative effect. Thomas paints ornate, faux-wooden frames around many of her compositions, and the one here provides a welcome, playful illusion that distracts from the painting's inadequacies. The work falls short both as a romantic landscape and as a more abstract patchwork of organic patterns.

Thomas nails her still-lifes, however. Here she strikes the perfect balance between Matissian flatness and excessive ornamentation. Still Life with Lamp, for example, portrays a lampshade with a gold-and-purple floral motif, numerous throw pillows, and various animal prints and geometric designs that abound in kitschy rhinestone-encrusted glory. Interspersed among the pillows are rectangular patches of a graphic daisy pattern that, painted in orange, green, and brown, evokes '70s wallpaper and complements the wood paneling. …

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