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Top 3 This Week

Let Lindsay Preston Zappas curate your art viewing experiences this week. Here are our Top 3 picks of what not to miss. Scroll down for Insider stories.

Mickalene Thomas, Afro Goddess Looking Forward, 2015. Rhinestones, acrylic, and oil on wood panel, 60 x 96 x 2 in.© Mickalene Thomas.

1. Mickalene Thomas at The Broad

Mickalene Thomas makes the type of artwork that you know is hers the moment you see it. Her iconic practice centers around portraiture of Black women, and she uses a unique blend of photography, collage, painting, screen printing, and mixed media to depict her “muses.” The Broad’s 20-year retrospective shows the artist evolving over the years, all the while keeping her focused aesthetic and subject matter at the center.

The work often begins with photography of her subjects — often close friends, lovers, or family members who are photographed in lavish sets in the artist’s studio. And while photography has remained a cornerstone of the artist’s practice, it also acts as a springboard into mixed-media depictions of the body. Thomas’ large-scale works hopscotch through a variety of mediums as she cuts up and reassembles her figures, often adding rhinestones and glitter to the surfaces of her paintings.

Art history is evoked throughout the exhibition — Monet, Picasso, Ingres, and Manet are directly referenced, though notably, these historical white male painters didn’t depict people of color in central roles. In her iterations, Thomas swaps her muses in as the stars, pushing back on art history’s narrow focus and creating space for Black women to shine. In a reinvention of Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, Thomas photographs three black women, lounging and staring fiercely into the camera. Across the exhibition, Thomas’ unique style of portraiture firmly celebrates Black women, creating safe spaces for them to be celebrated while proposing a redux to art historical and cultural blindspots. 

On view: May 25 - Sep 29, 2024 Open map

Charlotte Edey, All Words Are Written In Water, 2024 (Detail). Image courtesy of Anat Ebgi.

2.  Charlotte Edey at Anat Ebgi

Charlotte Edey’s solo exhibition at Anat Ebgi, All Words Are Written In Water, plays with both language and watery forms in subtle ways. Across the gallery, wooden frames shaped like punctuation marks (commas, parenthesis, etc) house the artist's abstract tapestries, pulling the viewer into the midst of her unique conversation. Highlighting the pauses and breaks between language rather than words themselves feels apt for Edey — her weavings and drawings shapeshift before your eyes, evading any clear reading. Made using a digital jacquard loom, Edey’s woven structures are abstract, bodily, and architectural at once — their imagery is suggestive of portals, passageways, eyelashes, or water droplets, without firmly landing in any concrete place. They roam through the world of visions and dreams. The mirrored vinyl installed on the gallery floor creates a watery reflection, adding to the aqueous fantasy.

Heightening the shimmering imagery across Edey’s weavings are hundreds of beads and stones that she hand embroiders across the surfaces of her work, drawing out woven lines and creating new ones. It’s uncanny how fluid and malleable the work feels, all while using some of our most enduring materials — thread, glass, wood

On view: April 27–June 25, 2024 Open map

Summer Nights
Image courtesy of Kohn Gallery

3. Siji Krishnan at Kohn Gallery

For Siji Krishnan’s first exhibition in the US, the Indian artist employs a delicate palette of earth tones across her paintings. Her mark-making has a light ethereal touch, each stroke seamlessly transforming from expressive mark to landscape to figure — the three blending together in fluid gestures. Her lines and figures float over her hazy grounds like phantoms. 

Her pictures depict rural familial life (the artist grew up in the rural countryside of southern India). In one painting, a community huddles together, each person engaging in various activities of rural life — some eat, some watch a small TV, others cook or gather around low tables. Motherhood is a prime subject across the works with pregnant, breastfeeding, and even birthing figures taking center stage. In Womb, a pregnant woman’s reflection can be seen on a watery surface, glistening and majestic. 

Other paintings read more as landscapes, like Against the Wind, which pictures a palm tree grove bending in the breeze, their fronds chaotically sprinkled on the ground below. In the center of the composition, a dog trots as if about to take flight amidst the swirling fauna. Yet, even in paintings like this one that are void of bodies, the natural elements feel like stand-ins for human connection. This group of palms could easily morph into a family group dancing together in the wind.

On view: April 26 - June 8, 2024  Open map


Gallery Talk

Gallery talk is your insider look into the stories of gallerists, curators, and artists in the Los Angeles art community.

Installation view of Mickalene Thomas: All About Love at The Broad, Los Angeles, May 25 to September 29, 2024. Photo by Joshua White/, courtesy of The Broad.

Celebration, self-discovery, and joy

In the first gallery of Mickelene Thomas’ exhibition, we enter into a ‘70s-era living room complete with faux wood wall paneling and plush furniture bedecked with a mishmash of patterned textiles. This type of set has always been part of Mickalene’s practice — she creates spaces for Black women to be photographed and empowered. She says, “I created domestic settings primarily for my fellow Black women — my ‘muses’ — to spend time and have new experiences in familiar surroundings, perhaps resembling their mothers’ or grandmothers’ living rooms.” In the exhibition, the artist’s own mother is photographed in a diptych in her living room set — an homage to her familial influences. “Most of the theoretical inspiration for my work is rooted in self-discovery, celebration, joy, sensuality, and a need to see positive images of Black women in the world,” Thomas explains.


Lindsay Preston Zappas is KCRW's Arts Correspondent and the founder/ editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (Carla).

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