Tag Archives: Mickalene Thomas

TONI MORRISON — THE PIECES I AM

Navigating a white male world wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t even interesting. I knew more than them. — Toni Morrison

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM—the new documentary by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, now in theaters—is a joyous, exhilarating look at the life and work of a great American author, teacher, and editor who has always been happy to be labeled a “black writer,” a “woman writer.”

“I didn’t want to speak for black people. I wanted to speak to, and among…”

And it is shocking, in Greenfield-Sanders documentary, to come across such benighted critical voices as, say, Sara Blackburn’s in 1973, in America’s supposedly liberal newspaper of record:

“Toni Morrison is far too talented to remain only a marvelous recorder of the black side of provincial American life.”*

Removing the white male gaze as the dominant voice is a key element of Morrison’s practice, and she doesn’t hesitate calling out black writers who seemed to write to white audiences. Citing Ralph Ellison, she asks, “The Invisible Man? Invisible to whom?”

As a senior editor at Random House throughout the 1970s, Morrison discovered and championed books by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, and Bettie Wysor (author of The Lesbian Myth). She also persuaded Angela Davis—then in her late twenties—to write her autobiography.

“Eventually I learned that the book she wanted to publish was the book I wanted to write… She helped me access my imagination in ways I continue to be grateful for today.” — Angela Davis

Song of Solomon (1977) was Morrison’s first best seller, and five years later she left her editor’s post to devote her time to writing and teaching. She’s professor emeritus at Princeton University, and often told her students, “I know you’ve been told, ‘write what you know.’ I don’t want you to do that. You don’t know anything.”

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM features interviews with Morrison’s friends and colleagues—Walter Mosley, Farah Griffin, Fran Lebowitz, Paula Giddings, Hilton Als, Sonia Sanchez, editor Robert Gottlieb, and Davis—as well as a rich selection of contemporary artwork by, among others, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, David Hammons, and Rashid Johnson.

TONI MORRISON—THE PIECES I AM

Tuesday, October 22, at 7:30 pm.

The Landmark

10850 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 18, at 7:30 pm.

Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Music Hall

9036 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

Downtown Independent

251 South Main Street, Los Angeles.

Arclight Hollywood

6360 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*Sara Blackburn, review of Sula, by Toni Morrison, New York Times, December 30, 1973.

From top: Toni Morrison, photograph from Toni Morrrison—The Pieces I Am; Morrison, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders; Morrison with her sons Ford Morrison (left) and Slade Morrison in 1978, photograph by Jack Mitchell, Getty Images; poster courtesy Magnolia Pictures; Morrison and Greenfield-Sanders, photograph courtesy and © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Images courtesy and © the author, the photographers, and Magnolia Pictures.

ORLANDO AT APERTURE

“Virginia Woolf wrote Orlando in an attitude of celebration of the oscillating nature of existence. She believed the creative mind to be androgynous. I have come to see Orlando far less as being about gender than about the flexibility of the fully awake and sensate spirit…

“Where I once assumed it was a book about eternal youth, I now see it as a book about growing up, about learning to live.” — Tilda Swinton*

ORLANDO—the Aperture exhibition inspired by Woolf and curated by Swinton—features the work of Zackary Drucker, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Jamal Nxedlana, Elle Pérez, Walter Pfeiffer, Sally Potter, Viviane Sassen, Collier Schorr, Mickalene Thomas, and Carmen Winant.

ORLANDO

Through July 11.

Aperture Gallery

547 West 27th Street, 4th floor, New York City.

From top: Photographer unknown, Virginia Stephen in 1912, photograph sent to Leonard Woolf; Lynn Hershman Leeson (2), Rowlands/Bogart (Female Dominant), 1982, from the series Hero Sandwich, hand-painted collage, and Roberta Getting Ready to Go to Work ,1976, photograph of Roberta Breitmore, Leeson’s alter ego in a multiyear performance piece that lasted throughout the 1970s, both courtesy and © the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York; Mickalene Thomas (2), Untitled #3 (Orlando Series) and Untitled #4 (Orlando Series), both 2019 for Aperture, courtesy and © the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, (Untitled #4 is a portrait of Thomas’ partner, Racquel Chevremont); Jamal NxedlanaFAKA Portraits, Johannesburg, 2019, for Aperture, courtesy and © the artist; Walter Pfeiffer, untitled, 2009, courtesy and © the artist and Art + Commerce, Artists Rights Society, New York, and ProLitteris, Zürich; Collier Schorr, untitled (Casil), 2015–18 (2), courtesy and © the artist and 303 Gallery, New York; Carmen WinantA melon, a pineapple, an olive tree, an emerald, a fox in the snow, 2019, for Aperture, courtesy and © the artist, (artwork incorporates a photograph of Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West); Zackary DruckerRosalyne, 2019, for Aperture, courtesy and © the artist and Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles.

BLACK MODELS AT ORSAY

“The French exhibition is a welcome change … but in bringing black people to the fore of such art we must be careful to frame the images correctly. Black people were present in this history and paintings, not as equals but as subjects. Renaming them and removing racist epithets does not change the subservient role many of the paintings portray. It is tempting to get carried away celebrating our presence, while forgetting why we were there and continue to be here. In the most part, we remain subjects oppressed to the margins of the canvas.” — Kehinde Andrews

BLACK MODELS—FROM GÉRICAULT TO MATISSE, an exhibition of paintings featuring black sitters—some of which have been retitled to honor their subjects—is on view in Paris through mid-summer.

BLACK MODELS—FROM GÉRICAULT TO MATISSE

Through July 21.

Musée d’Orsay

1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 7th, Paris.

From top: Mickalene Thomas, Din, a very beautiful black woman #1, 2012, © Mickalene Thomas, Artist Rights Society, New York; Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait of a Black Woman, 1800, renamed Portrait of Madeleine; Eugène DelacroixPortrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban, circa 1827, Dallas Museum of Art; Jean-Léon Gérôme, Slave for Sale, 1873; Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, renamed Laure, Musée de Louvre; Charles AlstonGirl in a Red Dress, 1934, collection Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts, San Antonio; Henri MatisseDame à la robe blanche, 1946, Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections, © 2018 Succession H. Matisse, ARS, New York, photograph by Rich Sanders. Images courtesy Musée d’Orsay.

MICKALENE THOMAS — FEMMES NOIRES

MICKALENE THOMAS—FEMMES NOIRES—the artist’s investigation of race and representation through a black, queer, feminist lens—is Thomas’ first large-scale solo exhibition in Canada.

MICKALENE THOMAS—FEMMES NOIRES

Through March 24.

Art Gallery of Ontario

317 Dundas Street West, Toronto.

Top: Mickalene Thomas, Los Angelitos Negros (detail), 2016. Four HD monitors, two-channel HD video, sound. © Mickalene Thomas. (Eartha Kitt is featured in this image.)

Above: Mickalene Thomas, Diahann Carroll #2, 2018. Silkscreen ink and acrylic on acrylic mirror, mounted on wood panel. © Mickalene Thomas. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels.

Below: Mickalene ThomasLe Dejeuner sur l’herbe: Les trois femmes noires (detail), 2010. Rhinestones, acrylic, and enamel on wood panel. The Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann Collection © Mickalene Thomas.

Images courtesy the artist, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

PEGGY COOPER CAFRITZ

Peggy Cooper Cafritz—the Washington, D.C., collector of African-American art, salonist, activist, fundraiser, co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and just-published author—died last week in the capital.

Her 2018 book FIRED UP! READY TO GO!—FINDING BEAUTY, DEMANDING EQUITY brings together images of more than 200 works of art that were lost in a 2009 house fire, as well as the art Cooper Cafritz had collected in the years since the catastrophe.

The Cooper Cafritz collection includes pieces by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Edward Mitchell Bannister, Alma Thomas, Norman Lewis, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, El Anatsui, Yinka Shonibare, Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Glenn Ligon, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae WeemsNoah Davis, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Titus KapharNjideka Akunyili Crosby, and Toyin Ojih Odutola.

PEGGY COOPER CAFRITZ, FIRED UP! READY TO GO!—FINDING BEAUTY, DEMANDING EQUITY: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE IN ART, THE COLLECTIONS OF PEGGY COOPER CAFRITZ (New York: Rizzoli , 2018).

Contributors to the book’s text include Thelma Golden, Simone Leigh, Uri McMillan, Jack ShainmanTschabalala Self.

From top: Torkwase Dyson, Strange Fruit (Blue Note), 2015, acrylic on board; Romare Bearden, Prince Cinque (Maquette), 1976, felt pen with watercolor and collage on graph paper; Jas Knight, Autumn, 2015, oil on linen; Loren Holland, The Messenger, 2005, oil on paper; Noah Davis, Black Widow, 2007, acrylic and gouache on canvas; Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled, 2012. All images © the artists, courtesy the Estate of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, and Rizzoli.