Continuing from my post on Monday, I’m looking at two more artists that would be part of my fantasy exhibition: Mickalene Thomas and Maya Bloch. Thomas is an American artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Bloch is an Israeli artist who splits her time between Tel Aviv and New York City. This fantasy exhibition centers around the existential question of being. How the body exists in space and the psychology of identity. Both Thomas and Bloch have a wide ranging artistic vocabulary that they employ in their paintings. The viewer’s relationship to the work is equally as important as the figure represented in the image.
Thomas’ use of rhinestones both highlights the sensuality of the figure and creates a sort of barrier that blocks the viewer from getting too intimate with the image. I saw her work at the Brooklyn Museum last year and was struck by the exquisite quality of the paintings. The rhinestones did create a kind of barrier, though, a sort of bedazzled shield from the viewer’s gaze.
Her images explore African American female notions of beauty, sexuality, and femininity. All of her figures have a strong personality and feel in control even if depicted in a vulnerable position.
Her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum was titled Origin of the Universe and the first painting was a re-interpretation of Courbet’s famous work Origin of the World.
Like Thomas, Maya Bloch is experimental with the way she creates her paintings. She pushes the medium so that the meaning of the work is connected to both the application of paint and the composition of the image. The figures blur and blend in and out of the background, which creates a distortion left for the viewer’s eyes to piece together. In this way she heightens the viewer’s involvement, making the viewer extremely self aware of his/her act of looking. Her figures also contain strong personalities so that the viewer simultaneously senses that his/her gaze is being met by these figures.
Bloch plays with the traditional portrayal of the female nude in Art History and creates a psychological and somewhat violent atmosphere. Her work certainly questions ideals of beauty and desire, and they have an introspective quality about them while also being quite aggressive in their handling.