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Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971)
Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971)
Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971)
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Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971)

Just a Whisper Away

Mickalene Thomas (b. 1971) Just a Whisper Away signed, titled and dated 'JUST A WHISPER AWAY, 2008 M. Thomas' (on the reverse of the right panel) diptych—acrylic, enamel and rhinestones on panel overall: 96 x 120 in. (243.8 x 304.8 cm.) Executed in 2008.
Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Post Lot Text
Please note that this work has been requested for inclusion in the forthcoming exhibition Desire in Art: from the 20th Century to the Digital Age being organized by the IMMA, Dublin, which will run from September 2019 through March 2020.

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Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing

Lot Essay

An arresting double portrait of the artist’s close friends, Just a Whisper Away, the present lot, asserts the unabashed confidence inherent to Mickalene Thomas’s investigations of black beauty. Her signature rhinestones allude to an earlier interest in pointillism’s division of space, while lending a glamour embodied by her fabulous sitters. The woman in red establishes direct eye contact with the viewer, in the same way Edouard Manet’s nude looks amusedly out at her shocked audience in Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1862-3). In doing so, each woman gracefully reclaims her femininity from the clutches of the male gaze, defining herself instead by her own standards of womanhood. Setting a flower-power scene reminiscent of a 1970s sitcom, Thomas revisits the wood-paneled living room of her childhood “where the women of my family would come together for intense dialogues” (M. Thomas, quoted in L. Melandri, “Points of Origin: An Interview with Mickalene Thomas” in Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe, ed. L. Melandri, exh. cat., Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2012, p. 33).
The dialogue unfolding here is with long-held notions of art history, those that perennially suppressed powerful images of the black female, subjugating her to the maid, the slave or the erotic other. This interior instead opens up a space of freedom, a space in which black women can be proud of their bodies and their heritage. That this work is a diptych only emphasizes how comfortable each woman is in owning her space. Thomas’s women do not cower – they take fierce charge of their surroundings, boldly asserting their presence, ascertaining above all that the woman’s moment of liberation is just a whisper away.

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