Mickalene Thomas: Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Mickalene Thomas: Beyond the Pleasure Principle (2021) at Lévy Gorvy, Hong Kong, formed part of the multipart international exhibition including New York, London, and Paris. Each city presented interconnected bodies of work, ranging from painting and collage to installation and video. With the sequential openings of Beyond the Pleasure Principle in the gallery’s global locations, Thomas set out to formally, spatially, and philosophically draw attention to the central study of her art: the power and desirability of Black women—and their presence, imprint, and legacy in global avant-garde visual culture.
Thomas premiered six new mixed-media paintings in Hong Kong from her Tête de Femme series, offering her personal and contemporary interpretations of Cubism, Dadaism, and Pop art. In Tête de Femme (2013–), Thomas moves toward abstraction, constructing enigmatic faces from colorful fragments upon which facial silhouettes are outlined. The series emerged from Thomas’s close collaborations for her staged photographs with make-up artist Vincent Oquendo, with whom she began making small collages that engaged Oquendo’s intuitive appreciation of facial angles and colorful application of make-up. Thomas soon began developing these collages into large-scale paintings. The Tête de Femme works demonstrate the artist’s interplay of line, form, and material, and proffer an alternative aspect to her interaction with art history. The staged superimpositions of eyes, noses, and mouths recall the sartorial collages of Hannah Höch and Claude Cahun, while the title Tête de Femme echoes Pablo Picasso’s portraits of the women in his life.