November 21, 2019
BMA Unveils Mickalene Thomas A Moment’s Pleasure
BALTIMORE, MD (UPDATED September 15, 2020)—On November 24, The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) debuts Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure, an immersive site-specific installation that transforms the museum’s East Entrance and entire two-floor East Lobby. Inspired to create a living for Baltimore, Thomas has installed a new façade on the exterior that resembles the city’s traditional row houses and re-envisioned the interior with new wallpapers, furniture, carpeting, and other design elements, altering every surface of the space. The vivid geometric patterns, prints, and textures of the environment reference the aesthetics of the 1970s and 1980s, particularly the creativity of black culture in the U.S. during that period. Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure marks the inaugural presentation of the Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker Biennial Commission, which was established in fall 2018 to provide contemporary artists with a platform within the BMA to realize ambitious new projects and to engage with the community through one of the most accessible areas of the museum. This installation is the most expansive commission undertaken by both the artist and the museum and also the first major presentation of the BMA’s 2020 Vision initiative. It will remain on view through May 2022.
As part of the commission, Thomas has also curated a presentation of works by artists with ties to Baltimore that is featured in the newly enclosed Terrace Gallery. Paintings, prints, drawings by artists Derrick Adams, Zoë Charlton, Theresa Chromati, uniik / Dominiqua Eldridge, Devin N. Morris, Clifford Owens, and D’Metrius John Rice are hung throughout the space, while a loop of video works by Abdu Ali and Karryl Eugene, Erick Antonio Benitez, Nicoletta Daríta de la Brown, Kotic Couture, Markele Cullins, Emily Eaglin, Hunter Hooligan, Devin N. Morris, Clifford Owens, and TT the Artist are projected on a screen. The Terrace Gallery will also host a series of events, such as film screenings, artist talks, performances, and workshops. The installation also includes costumes for BMA staff working in the lobby designed by Dominican-born fashion designer José Durán.
“Mickalene’s ambitious reinstallation of the East Lobby offers a new and exciting aesthetic experience—one that engages the senses at every turn and offers the community a dynamic new space in which to connect with each other, the work, and the museum. It is transformative in its own right as an astounding work of art and in its
revisioning of what museum can and should feel like to visitors,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “The Meyerhoff-Becker Biennial Commission was created to address, in part, this very vision of making the museum experience more welcoming to a broader range of visitors through exceptional art. We are incredibly grateful to Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker for their support in making the commission program possible.”
Thomas is globally recognized for her visually and conceptually layered compositions—created through an array of media, from acrylics, enamels, and rhinestones to richly composed photographs to mixed-media installations. Her portraits, landscapes, and interior views, whether produced in two or three dimensions, meld the visual vocabularies of art history and popular culture to examine issues of identity, gender, sexuality, and power. While her work deals in particular with the historic, social, and political constructs that shape our understanding of femininity and woman-hood, her practice also delves into important moments of societal upheaval, especially those in the U.S. between the 1970s and 1980s. It is this sensibility of place and context that Thomas brings to her recreation of the BMA’s East Lobby, reshaping it into a space that speaks to aspects of Baltimore’s history and architecture and that draws in the community through its vivacious use of different aesthetic modes and styles.
Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure is curated by Christopher Bedford with Meyerhoff-Becker Curatorial Fellow Cynthia Hodge-Thorne and curatorial assistants Katie Cooke and Carlyn Thomas.
Internationally recognized artist Mickalene Thomas (American, born 1971) creates paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations that examine identity, gender, power structures, and the sense of self. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2019) ; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans, LA (2019); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018); Wexner Center for the Arts, OH (2018); Newcomb Art Museum, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA (2017); Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, Houston, TX (2017); Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); Aspen Art Museum, CO (2016); Aperture Foundation, New York (2016); George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY (2014); and the Brooklyn Museum, New York (2012–13); among numerous others. Her work is also held in the collections of the BMA, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Thomas has been awarded numerous prizes and grants, including the USA Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellow (2015); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2013); Brooklyn Museum Asher B. Durand Award (2012); and the Timerhi Award for Leadership in the Arts (2010). Thomas received a B.F.A. from the Pratt Institute and an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Art.
About the Baltimore Museum of Art
Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 95,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.