Lehmann Maupin Gallery will present Mickalene Thomas: How to Organize a Room Around A Striking Piece of Art, a two-gallery exhibition on view from 1 November 2012 – 5 January 2013 at 540 West 26th Street and 201 Chrystie Street. The artist's third solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin will be presented in two parts: the Lower East Side gallery will comprise new large-scale paintings depicting landscapes and interior scenes as well as a series of short films created during her recent travels in Europe. In Chelsea, Thomas's first documentary film "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN" will be shown alongside paintings, photographs, and photomontages of her mother and long-time muse, Sandra Bush. Thomas will also re-create one of her tableau environments in the gallery, allowing viewers to fully immerse themselves in her world while watching the film.
Opening receptions will be held at 540 West 26th Street and 201 Chrystie Street on Friday, 2 November 2012 from 6 to 8 PM.
Since 2010, when Thomas was commissioned by curator Klaus Biesenbach to create a large-scale mural for MoMA PS1 and a site-specific painting for MoMA's restaurant The Modern, the surrounding landscape has played an increasingly prominent role in her work. The series of new paintings on view at 201 Chrystie Street were inspired by various art historical sources ranging from 19th-century Hudson River School to Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, and Édouard Manet. Thomas was specifically drawn to Claude Monet's infamous garden in Giverny, France, where she spent time while completing a residency at the Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program. In her hands, Monet's lush gardens and family home are re-claimed and re-contextualized to form new, contemporary narratives.
At the same time, Thomas turned her attention indoors, sourcing images from the popular interior design anthology The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement. Published in the early 1970s, a decade that has largely influenced her visual aesthetic, The Practical Encyclopedia of Good Decorating and Home Improvement yielded stylish reproductions of brightly painted foyers, tiled kitchens, and wood-paneled living rooms which Thomas coupled and collaged with her own photographs, swathes of patterned textiles and blocks of pure color, and at times, glimpses of the landscape to render kaleidoscopic shifts in perspective. The landscape is also brought to life as a moving collage in five short films of Giverny that visitors to the exhibition are able to experience on Google's new Nexus 7 tablets.
At Lehmann Maupin's West 26th Street gallery, Thomas's thirty-minute documentary "Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman" is the centerpiece of an exhibition that takes as its theme the artist's mother, Sandra Bush. The film is an emotionally raw and loving portrait of Bush as she reflects on her life experiences, including her personal struggles and recent battle with chronic illness, and her hopes for the present and future. "Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman" debuted at the Brooklyn Museum of Art on 28 September as part of Thomas's first solo museum exhibition in New York.