Exhibitions: Mickalene Thomas: Origin of the Universe

Mickalene Thomas: Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires

Thomas transforms Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting Le Sommeil (Sleep), an interior scene of two nude Caucasian women. Restaging the piece in nature, she depicts two African American women reclining on richly patterned textiles. The contrast between their black and yellow skin tones echoes that between the dark- and fair-haired subjects in Courbet’s painting, while Thomas’s deliberate use of French in her title simultaneously pays tribute to a lineage of Western art history and revises that tradition. As is characteristic of Thomas’s recent work, the surface of the painting is fragmented into a number of angular pieces, drawing attention to the painting as an artful construction rather than a seamless representation of the world around us. Thomas has commented that the panel is based on landscapes by the contemporary British artist David Hockney, suggesting the eclectic nature of her sources of inspiration.