curated by Mickalene Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas
Rhona Hoffman Gallery is pleased to present tête-à-tête, a group exhibition of photographic work by Derrick Adams, Jayson Keeling, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Clifford Owens, Mahlot Sansosa, Malick Sidibe, Xaviera Simmons, Mickalene Thomas, and Hank Willis Thomas.
In January of 2012 the Friends of Education of the Museum of Modern Art, New York invited Derrick Adams, Clifford Owens, Mickalene Thomas, and Xaviera Simmons to participate in “Conversation: Among Friends.” This discussion inspired Thomas to question ideas surrounding collaborative work, and to consider the performative process in which a conversation is transformed into a visual expression.
tête-à-tête includes photography by both African and African-American artists, and asks us to consider the conceptual idea of the black body and what that means in today’s society. Mickalene Thomas is interested in the performative way in which male artists use their physical presence and body in relation to the viewer, and the way many female artists view themselves through the gaze of another (often male). Clifford Owens inverts the art historical male gaze and creates a “black male on male gaze.” Derrick Adams responds to these ideas more abstractly in “Communicating with Shadows,” a collection of performances in which he created enlarged, projected silhouette impressions of artists such as Joseph Beuys, David Hammons, and Adrian Piper as a means of developing a personal conversation.
In the “Faces and Phases” series, Zanele Muholi photographed black lesbians she met through the South African townships as a commemoration and a celebration of their lives. She established relationships with her subjects based on a mutual understanding of what it means to be female, lesbian and black in South Africa today. Deana Lawson, much like Muholi, creates photographs that serve as visual testimonies of familial relationships, sexuality, and life cycles. Lawson is also interested in establishing a dialogue around the way in which these images create a cultural narrative. Often pictured within her own photographs, Xaviera Simmons simultaneously captures both truth and fiction in bright, colorful compositions. Performance artist Adam Pendleton describes her work as “using the suggestion of performance to capture the explicit and contradictory nature of individuality. Her subject becomes herself, and also a dismembered characterization of what we’re accustomed to looking at.”
Exhibited in the lower gallery are works from Mickalene Thomas’ “Polaroid Series,” compositions of archival digital Polaroid prints which provide insight into her artistic process. As if looking through a keyhole, the images expose Thomas’ subjects (many of whom are also portrayed in her prints, photographs, and paintings) as she herself would have seen them. The groupings, notes, and various arrangements not only articulate the intimate conversations between artist and subject, but also reveal the selection process by which Thomas creates her narratives.
Mickalene Thomas earned her MFA from Yale University in 2002, and participated in the Artist-in-Residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2002-2003. She has exhibited extensively and was included in the recent and critically acclaimed exhibitions 30 Americans at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, FL; Black Is, Black Ain't at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, IL; and Greater New York 2005 at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, NY. Her work may also be seen in prestigious public collections such as the Brooklyn Museum; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago among others. A solo exhibition of her work, “Origin of the Universe,” will open at the Santa Monica Museum of Art on April 14, 2012.
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