Mickalene Thomas: Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Mickalene Thomas: Beyond the Pleasure Principle (2021) at Lévy Gorvy, London, formed part of the multipart international exhibition including New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. 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.
At Lévy Gorvy, London, Thomas debuted seven large-scale paintings composed of silkscreen, oil and acrylic paint, and rhinestone application that related to the series she presented in New York. Her Jet Blue canvases in London featured archival images of Black women sourced from vintage Jet pinup calendars. Here, departing from the artist’s well-known practice of choosing friends, family, and lovers as models, Thomas widened her consideration of Black women’s bodies in art, media, and politics to include images from the 1970s. By overlaying these vintage images with abstract and geometric gestures and interventions—Thomas reflected on the complex forces that shape our understanding of beauty, desire, identity, and power.
As part of the London presentation of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Thomas premiered a film at 40 Albemarle Street created with her collaborator, Racquel Chevremont, entitled Je t’aime Trois (2018; 15:27), that intensified her dialogue with the past through personal narrative.