Mickalene Thomas Takes Los Angeles

This article is part of our Museums special section about how institutions are striving to offer their visitors more to see, do and feel.

Mickalene Thomas has been getting into neon. But then, the artist is constantly exploring new materials and methods, which is why her practice includes painting, collage, sculpture, printmaking, photography and video.

Now the scope of her work will be captured by a sweeping exhibition here at the Broad, “Mickalene Thomas: All About Love,” which opens May 25.

Well before the current market craze over Black figuration, Thomas was exploring the Black female figure. “It’s difficult to understand from where we are now how radical her work was when I first showed it,” said the Los Angeles gallerist Susanne Vielmetter, who gave Thomas one of her first solo shows in 2007. “I cannot think of a single artist who at that time was making portraiture of female Black figures from a perspective of female desire.”

The museum’s show features more than 80 works made over the last 20 years and bills itself as the artist’s “first major international tour.” But Thomas did not want to call it a retrospective or a survey.

“La Leçon d’amour” (2008). Thomas was exploring the Black female figure well before the current market craze over Black figuration.Credit…Mickalene Thomas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“It seems so finite, so definite — closed and fixed,” she said over a shrimp Caesar salad at the Edition hotel. “I like things open-ended. My career is still young.

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